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IC   EjIXI] 

*  *«*"* 

1  Edited,  with  a  B 
nd  Notes  Compiled  from  Ori 

Charles  $"  in  1519 

From  an  old  print 

In  Twc 


INew    i<  don 

Zbc  ftnicktrboefcet  Dtc*i 


Letters  of  Cortes 

The  Five  Letters  of  Relation  from  Fernando 
Cortes  to  the  Emperor  Charles  V. 

Translated,  and  Edited,  with  a  Biographical  Introduction 
and  Notes  Compiled  from  Original  Sources 


Francis  Augustus  MacNutt 

In  Two  Volumes 
Volume  Two 

G.  P.  Putnam's  Sons 
New  York  and  London 
Zbe  Itnicfeerboc&er  ipreas 


Copyright,  1908 



Ubc  fmtcfeerbocfeer  press,  Hew  ]t?orft 



Third  Letter,  May  15,  1522          .....  3 

Fourth  Letter,  October  15,  1524          ....  159 

Fifth  Letter,  September  3,  1526           ....  229 

Fragment  of  a  Letter  prom  Bishop  Zumarraga       .  359 

Index      .........  367 



Charles  V.  in  1519  .         .         .         .         .      Frontispiece 
From  an  Old  Print 

Plan  of  Mexico  City         .         .         .         .         .         .12 

From  The  Conquest  of  Mexico,  by  Diaz  del  Castillo 

Map  of  Yucatan  and  the  Adjacent  Territories       .     232 
Compiled  by  Dudley  Costello  in  1854 

Map  of  the  South  Sea  and  the  Gulf  of  California     350 
From  Lorenzana's  Hist,  de  Nueva  Esfana,  1770 




Sent  by  Fernando  Cortes,  Captain  and  Superior  Justice 
of  Yucatan,  called  the  New  Spain  of  the  Ocean  Sea,  to  the 
Very  High  and  Most  Potent  and  Invincible  Lord,  Don 
Carlos,  August  Emperor  and  King  of  Spain,  Our  Lord, 
concerning  the  things  transpired  and  very  worthy  of  ad- 
miration in  the  conquest  and  recovery  of  the  very  great  and 
marvellous  city  of  Temixtitan,  and  of  the  other  provinces 
subject  to  it  which  had  revolted.  In  which  city  and  pro- 
vinces the  said  Captain  and  Spaniards  obtained  great  and 
signal  victories,  worthy  of  perpetual  memory.  Likewise, 
relation  is  made  how  the  South  Sea  has  been  discovered; 
and  many  other  and  great  provinces,  very  rich  in  mines 
of  gold,  and  pearls,  and  precious  stones,  and  information 
is  even  had  that  there  are  spices. 

Very  High  and  Most  Powerful  Prince,  Very  Catholic 
and  Invincible  Emperor,  King  and  Lord.  With  Alonzo 
de  Mendoza,  native  of  Medellin,  whom  I  sent  from  this 
New  Spain  on  the  fifth  of  March  of  the  past  year  of  15  21, 
I  despatched  a  second  account  to  Your  Majesty  of  every- 
thing that  had  happened  here;  this  I  finished  writing 
on  the  thirtieth  of  October  of  the  year  1520,  but  on  ac- 
count of  very  contrary  winds  and  the  loss  of  three  ships, 
one  of  which  I  had  prepared  to  send  with  the  said  account 
to  Your  Majesty,  and  the  two  others  to  bring  help  from 
the  island  of  Hispaniola,  there  was  much  delay  in  the 
said  Mendoza' s  departure,  as  I  more  fully  wrote  by  him 
to  Your  Majesty.      In  the  closing  part  of  that  despatch 

4  Letters  of  Cortes 

I  told  Your  Majesty  how,  after  the  Indians  of  Temixtitan 
had  expelled  us  by  force,  I  had  marched  against  the 
province  of  Tepeaca,  one  of  its  vassals  which  had  rebelled 
against  us,  and  that,  with  the  Spaniards  who  remained, 
and  our  friendly  Indians,  I  had  made  war  on  them,  and 
reduced  them  to  the  service  of  Your  Majesty.  I  also 
said  that  the  past  treachery  and  the  great  sufferings  and 
deaths  of  the  Spaniards  were  so  fresh  in  our  hearts,  that 
my  determination  was  to  return  against  the  inhabitants 
of  that  capital,  who  had  been  the  cause  of  all ;  that  I  had 
begun  to  build  thirteen  brigantines,  with  which  to  do 
them  all  the  damage  I  could  from  the  lake,  if  they  perse- 
vered in  their  wicked  intention;  that  while  the  said 
brigantines  were  being  made,  and  we  and  the  friendly 
Indians  were  preparing  ourselves  to  return  against  the 
enemy,  I  had  sent  for  reinforcements  of  people,  and 
horses,  and  artillery,  and  arms,  to  the  island  of  Hispaniola, 
where  I  had  written  regarding  it  to  Your  Majesty's 
officials  who  reside  there,  sending  them  monies  for  the 
necessary  outlay  and  expenses.  I  also  assured  Your 
Majesty  that,  till  we  were  victorious  over  the  enemy,  I 
would  neither  think  of  rest,  nor  would  I  cease  to  use  all 
possible  solicitude  to  accomplish  it,  disregarding  whatever 
danger  and  hardship  might  overtake  me;  and  that  with 
this  determination  I  was  preparing  to  leave  the  said 
province  of  Tepeaca. 

I  likewise  made  known  to  Your  Majesty  how  a  caravel, 
belonging  to  Francisco  de  Garay,  Lieutenant  Governor  of 
the  island  of  Jamaica,  had  arrived  in  great  distress  at 
the  port  of  Vera  Cruz,  carrying  about  thirty  men,  who 
said  that  two  other  ships  had  sailed  for  the  river  of 
Panuco,  where  the  natives  had  routed  one  of  Francisco 
de  Garay's  captains;  and  it  was  feared  if  these  landed 
there,  that  they  would  suffer  injury  from  the  natives 
along  the  said  river.  I  likewise  wrote  to  Your  Majesty 
that   I   had   immediately   determined   to   send   another 

Third  Letter  5 

caravel  in  search  of  the  said  ships,  to  let  them  know  what 
had  happened. 

After  writing  this,  it  pleased  God  that  one  of  these 
ships  should  reach  the  port  of  Vera  Cruz,  on  board  of 
which  there  was  a  captain  with  about  a  hundred  and 
twenty  men.  He  learned  there  how  Garay's  former 
party  had  been  routed.  The  captain  who  was  routed 
assured  them  that  they  could  not  land  at  the  river  of 
Panuco  without  sustaining  much  harm  from  the  Indians. 
While  they  still  lay  in  the  said  port,  with  the  determina- 
tion to  go  to  that  river,  a  storm  with  violent  wind  arose 
which  drove  the  ship  out  to  sea,  breaking  the  cables,  and 
driving  it  into  a  port,  called  San  Juan,  twelve  leagues 
higher  up  the  coast,  where,  after  disembarking  all  the 
people,  and  seven  or  eight  horses,  and  as  many  mares 
which  they  had  brought,  they  beached  the  ship,  which 
leaked  badly.  As  soon  as  this  was  made  known  to  me, 
I  wrote  to  the  captain  immediately,  telling  him  that  I 
was  much  grieved  at  what  had  happened  to  him,  and  that 
I  had  sent  orders  to  my  lieutenant  at  Vera  Cruz  that 
he  and  his  people  should  be  given  a  very  good  reception 
and  whatever  they  might  need,  and  also  to  ascertain 
their  plans;  and  that,  if  all  or  any  of  them  wished  to 
return  in  the  ships  which  were  lying  there,  he  should 
give  them  permission  and  facilitate  their  departure.  The 
captain  and  his  men  determined  to  remain,  and  join  me, 
but  we  know  nothing  about  the  other  ships  thus  far,  and, 
as  so  long  a  time  has  already  elapsed,  we  much  doubt  of 
their  being  saved;  may  God  have  taken  them  to  a  good 
port ! 

Being  about  to  leave  the  province  of  Tepeaca,  I  learned 
that  two  provinces,  called  Cecatami  and  Xalazingo,  sub- 
ject to  the  lord  of  Temixtitan,  had  rebelled,  and  on  the 
road  from  the  city  of  Vera  Cruz  thither,  which  passes 
that  way,  they  had  killed  some  Spaniards.  To  render 
that  road  secure,  and  to  administer  chastisement  to  them 

6  Letters  of  Cortes 

in  case  they  did  not  submit  peaceably,  I  sent  a  captain 
with  twenty  horsemen  and  two  hundred  foot  soldiers, 
ordering  him,  on  the  part  of  Your  Majesty,  to  require 
the  natives  of  those  provinces  to  submit  peaceably  as 
vassals  of  Your  Majesty,  as  they  had  done  heretofore,  and 
to  use  all  possible  moderation  with  them;  but,  if  they 
would  not  receive  him  peaceably,  to  make  war  on  them. 
I  told  him  when  he  had  done  that,  and  quieted  these  two 
provinces,  to  return  with  his  men  to  Tascaltecal,  where  I 
would  wait  for  him.  He  left  in  the  beginning  of  the 
month  of  December  1520,  and  pursued  his  road  to  those 
provinces  which  were  about  twenty  leagues  distant. 

Having  despatched  this  business,  Very  Powerful  Lord, 
I  left  Segura  de  la  Frontera,  in  the  province  of  Tepeaca, 
Departure  at  mid-December  of  that  year,  placing  a 
from  captain  with   sixty    men   there    because    the 

Tepeaca  natives  besought  me  greatly  to  do  so;  and 
I  sent  all  my  people  on  foot  to  the  city  of  Tascal- 
tecal, where  the  brigantines  were  being  built,  which  is 
nine  or  ten  leagues  from  Tepeaca,  while  I  with  twenty 
horsemen  went  that  day  to  sleep  in  the  city  of  Cholula. 
The  inhabitants  desired  my  coming  on  account  of  the 
sickness  of  small-pox,1  which  also  affected  the  natives 
of  these  countries,  and  those  of  the  islands.  Many  of 
their  caciques  having  died  from  it,  they  desired  that  by 
my  action,  and  with  their  approval,  others  should  be 
appointed  in  their  places.  We  were  very  well  received 
by  them  on  our  arrival,  and,  having  finished  this  business 
to  their  satisfaction  in  the  manner  I  have  stated,  and 
having  explained  to  them  my  purpose  to  make  war  on  the 
province  of  Mexico  and  Temixtitan,  I  besought  them,  that, 
inasmuch  as  they  were  vassals  of  Your  Majesty,  they 
should  stand  firm  in  their  friendship  with  us,  as  we  would 
with  them  till  death.     I  besought  them  also  to  aid  me 

1  Said  to  have  been  introduced  by  a  negro  slave  who  came  with 
Panfilo  de  Narvaez  (Torquemada,  lib.  iv.,  cap.  lxxx.). 

Third  Letter  7 

with  people  during  the  war,  and  to  treat  well  the  Span- 
iards who  would  be  coming  and  going  through  their 
country,  which  as  friends  they  were  obliged  to  do.  They 
promised  to  do  this,  and  having  stayed  two  or  three  days 
in  their  city,  I  left  for  Tascaltecal,  a  distance  of  six  leagues, 
and,  on  my  arrival  there,  all  the  Spaniards  and  those  of 
the  city  met  me  with  great  rejoicing  at  my  coming.  The 
next  day  all  the  chiefs  of  the  city  and  provinces  came 
to  speak  to  me,  and  told  me  how  Magiscatcin,  who  was 
the  principal  lord  of  all  of  them,  had  died  of  that  illness, 
the  small-pox,  and  that  they  knew  I  would  be  much 
grieved  by  it  as  he  was  my  great  friend.  His  son,  about 
twelve  or  thirteen  years  old,  survived,  to  whom  all  the 
lordship  of  his  father  now  belonged,  and  they  prayed  me 
to  recognise  him  as  his  heir.  And  I  in  the  name  of  Your 
Majesty  did  this,  at  which  all  of  them  remained  very 

When  I  arrived  in  this  city,  I  found  that  the  master 
workmen  and  carpenters  had  used  great  diligence  with 
the  joining  and  planking  of  the  brigantines,  and  that  they 
had  accomplished  a  very  reasonable  amount  of  work.  I 
immediately  arranged  to  send  to  Vera  Cruz  for  all  the 
iron  and  nails  they  had  there,  together  with  the  sails  and 
tackle  and  other  needful  things  for  them;  and,  as  we  had 
no  pitch,  I  ordered  certain  Spaniards  to  make  it  in  a 
neighbouring  forest.  All  provisions  for  the  brigantines 
were  thus  ordered  to  be  ready  in  time,  so  that,  please 
God,  I  might,  on  arriving  in  the  province  of  Mexico  and 
Temixtitan,  send  for  them  from  there,  a  distance  of  sixteen 
leagues  from  the  city  of  Tascaltecal.  During  the  fifteen 
days  I  remained  there,  I  did  nothing  but  urge  on  the 
master  workmen,  and  the  preparation  of  arms  for  our 

Two  days  before  Christmas,  the  captain,  who  had  gone 
to  the  provinces  of  Cecatami  and  Xalazingo,  arrived 
with  the  people  on  foot  and  horseback,  and  I  learned 

8  Letters  of  Cortes 

how  some  of  the  natives  had  fought  them,  but  that,  at 
the  end,  some  of  their  free  will,  and  some  by  compulsion, 
had  sued  for  peace.  They  brought  me  some  lords  of 
those  provinces,  whom,  notwithstanding  that  they  were 
entirely  to  blame  for  their  rebellion  and  the  death  of  the 
Christians,  I  pardoned,  because  they  promised  me  that 
from  henceforth  they  would  be  good  and  loyal  vassals 
of  Your  Majesty.  Thus,  that  undertaking  was  finished, 
in  which  Your  Majesty  was  well  served,  not  only  in  the 
pacification  of  those  natives,  but  also  in  insuring  the 
safety  of  all  the  Spaniards  who  will  have  to  come  and 
go  through  these  provinces,  to  and  from  the  city  of  Vera 

The  second  day  after  Christmas,  I  held  a  review  in  the 
city  of  Tascaltecal,  and  found  forty  horsemen  and  five 
Review  of  hundred  and  fifty  foot-soldiers,  eighty  of 
the  Forces  them  cross-bowmen  and  musketeers,  with 
at  Tlascala  eight  or  nine  field-pieces,  but  very  little  pow- 
der. I  divided  the  horsemen  into  four  troops  of  ten 
each,  and  formed  nine  captaincies  of  sixty  Spanish 
foot  each.  All  being  assembled  for  this  review,  I 
spoke  to  them  as  follows :  They  already  knew  that  they 
and  I  had  come  to  serve  Your  Sacred  Majesty  by  set- 
tling in  this  country;  and  they  likewise  knew  how  all 
the  natives  of  it  had  acknowledged  themselves  as  vas- 
sals of,  Your  Majesty,  and  how  they  had  persevered 
as  such,  receiving  good  deeds  from  us  and  we  from 
them,  until,  without  any  cause,  all  the  inhabitants  of 
Culua  including  the  people  of  the  great  city  of  Temix- 
titan,  and  those  of  all  the  other  provinces  subject  to  it, 
had  revolted  against  Your  Majesty;  yet  more,  they  had 
killed  many  of  our  relatives  and  friends,  and  had  ex- 
pelled us  from  their  country.  That  they  should  remember 
how  many  dangers  and  hardships  we  had  endured,  and 
how  it  was  profitable  to  the  service  of  God  and  Your 
Catholic  Majesty  to  return  and  recover  what  was  left, 

Third  Letter  9 

inasmuch  as  we  had  just  causes  and  good  reasons  on  our 
side.  One  cause  was  because  we  fought  for  the  spread 
of  our  Faith,  and  against  barbarians ;  another  was  because 
we  served  Your  Majesty;  another  was  for  the  security  of 
our  lives;  and  another  because  we  had  many  natives, 
our  friends,  to  help  us.  All  these  were  strong  motives 
to  animate  our  hearts;  for  the  same  reasons  I  told  them 
to  cheer  up  and  be  brave.  In  the  name  of  Your  Ma- 
jesty, I  had  made  certain  ordinances  for  maintaining 
discipline  and  regulating  the  affairs  of  the  war,  which  I 
then  immediately  published.  I  enjoined  them  to  like- 
wise comply  with  these,  because  much  service  would  be 
rendered  by  so  doing,  to  God,  and  Your  Majesty.  They 
all  promised  to  do  so  and  to  comply  with  them,  declaring 
they  would  very  gladly  die  for  our  Faith  and  Your  Ma- 
jesty's service,  or  return  to  recover  the  loss,  and  revenge 
so  great  a  treachery  as  had  been  done  by  the  people  of 
Temixtitan  and  their  allies.  I,  in  the  name  of  Your 
Majesty,  thanked  them  for  it.  After  this  we  returned 
to  our  camp  on  the  day  after  the  review  in  good  spirits. 

The  next  day,  which  was  the  feast  of  St.  John  the 
Evangelist,  I  had  all  the  chiefs  of  the  province  of  Tas- 
caltecal  assembled,  and  told  them  that  they  already  knew 
I  was  about  to  leave  the  next  day  to  enter  the  country  of 
our  enemies ;  that  they  must  see  that  the  city  of  Temixtitan 
could  not  be  captured  without  the  brigantines  which 
were  being  built,  and  that  hence  I  prayed  that  they  would 
furnish  everything  necessary  to  the  workmen  and  the 
other  Spaniards  I  left  there,  and  would  treat  them  well 
as  they  had  always  treated  us.  I  said  also  that  they 
should  be  prepared,  if  God  should  give  us  the  victory, 
whenever  I  should  send  from  the  city  of  Tasaico 1  for  the 
joinings,  planks,  and  other  materials  for  the  brigantines, 
to  send  them.  They  promised  to  do  so,  and  they  also 
wished  to  send  some  warriors  with  me  at  once,  declaring 

i  Texcoco. 

io  Letters  of  Cortes 

that  when  the  brigantines  started  they  would  go  with 
all  their  people,  for  they  wished  to  die  where  I  died,  and 
to  revenge  themselves  on  theCuluans  their  mortal  enemies. 

Next  day  which  was  the  twenty-eighth  of  December, 
the  Feast  of  the  Innocents,  I  left  with  all  my  people  in 
good  order,  and  we  marched  six  leagues  from  Tascaltecal 
to  a  town  called  Tezmoluca, 1  belonging  to  the  province 
of  Guajocingo,  whose  natives  have  always  kept  the 
same  friendship  and  alliance  with  us  as  the  natives  of 
Tascaltecal;  and  there  we  rested  that  night. 

In  my  other  account,  Very  Catholic  Sire,  I  said  that  I 
had  been  informed  that  the  natives  of  Mexico  and 
Temixtitan  were  preparing  many  arms,  constructing 
earth- works  and  fortifications,  and  gathering  forces  for 
resisting  our  entrance  into  the  country;  for  they  already 
knew  that  I  intended  to  return  against  them.  I  was  aware 
of  this,  and  knowing  how  dextrous  and  crafty  they  were 
in  matters  of  war,  I  many  times  pondered  how  we  could 
surprise  them;  for  they  knew  that  we  had  information 
of  three  roads  or  entrances,  by  each  of  which  we  might 
advance  into  their  country.  I  determined  to  enter  by 
the  road  of  Tezmoluca,  because  as  its  pass  was  the  rough- 
est and  steepest  of  all,  I  felt  sure  that  we  would  not 
encounter  much  resistance  there,  nor  would  they  be  so 
much  on  their  guard. 

The  next  day  after  the  Feast  of  the  Innocents,  having 
heard  Mass,  and  recommended  ourselves  to  God,  we  left 
The  March  the  town  of  Tezmoluca,  I  leading  the  van- 
to  Mexico  guard,  with  ten  horsemen,  and  sixty  light 
foot-soldiers,  all  able  men  of  war.  We  pursued  our 
road,  leading  up  to  the  pass  with  all  possible  order, 
and  sleeping  four  leagues  from  Tezmoluca  on  the 
top  of  the  pass  which  is  already  within  the  limits 
of    Culua.      Although   great   cold   prevailed,    we    made 

1  Tezmulocan :  present  name  is  San  Martin  Tesmelucan,  in  the 
state  of  Puebla. 

Third  Letter  n 

ourselves  comfortable  that  night  with  large  quantities 
of  wood  we  found  there,  and  on  the  next  morning, 
a  Sunday,  we  set  out  to  follow  our  road,  descending  the 
pass  to  the  plain.  I  sent  four  horsemen  and  three  or 
four  foot  soldiers  to  reconnoitre  the  country,  and,  on 
our  march  descending  the  pass,  I  ordered  the  horsemen 
to  go  ahead  and  after  them  the  archers  and  musketeers, 
and  thus  the  rest  of  the  people  in  their  order;  because, 
however  unprepared  we  might  take  the  enemy,  we  were 
certain  they  would  come  to  attack  us  on  the  road,  having 
some  trap  or  other  device  prepared  to  injure  us.  As 
the  four  horsemen  and  the  four  foot  soldiers  were  ad- 
vancing, they  found  the  road  obstructed  by  trees  and 
branches  cut  and  thrown  over  it,  with  many  large,  thick 
pines  and  cypresses,  which  seemed  to  have  been  but  just 
cut  down;  and,  thinking  the  road  further  on  might  not 
be  so  much  obstructed,  they  continued  ahead,  but  the 
further  they  proceeded  the  more  obstructed  by  pines 
and  cypresses  they  found  it.  The  whole  pass  was  well 
wooded,  and  had  many  dense  shrubs,  so  they  marched 
with  much  difficulty;  and,  seeing  the  road  in  that  con- 
dition, they  became  much  alarmed,  fearing  that  behind 
each  tree  the  enemy  lurked.  On  account  of  the  thick 
woods,  the  horses  could  be  little  used,  and  the  further 
they  proceeded  the  greater  became  their  alarm. 

When  they  had  already  gone  some  distance  in  this 
manner,  one  of  the  four  horsemen  said  to  the  others, 
"Brothers,  let  us  go  no  farther.  If  you  agree,  it  would 
be  better  to  return,  and  inform  the  captain  of  the  ob- 
stacles we  have  found,  and  of  the  danger  in  which  we 
are,  as  we  cannot  make  any  use  of  the  horses ;  but  if  not, 
let  us  go  ahead  inasmuch  as  I  have  offered  my  life  till 
death,  as  well  as  all  of  you,  for  accomplishing  this  march." 
The  others  replied  that  this  counsel  was  very  good,  but 
it  did  not  appear  to  them  wise  to  return  to  me  until  they 
had  seen  the  enemy  or  ascertained  how  far  the  road  went. 

i2  Letters  of  Cortes 

So  they  set  out  again,  and,  when  they  saw  that  it  con- 
tinued a  long  way,  they  halted,  and  sent  one  of  the  soldiers 
to  tell  me  what  they  had  seen. 

When  I  came  up  with  the  vanguard  and  the  horsemen, 
we  pushed  ahead  on  that  bad  road,  recommending  our- 
selves to  God ;  and  I  sent  to  order  those  of  the  rear-guard 
to  hurry  up  and  not  be  alarmed,  as  we  would  soon  reach 
level  ground.  When  I  joined  the  four  horsemen,  we 
advanced  in  spite  of  many  obstacles  and  difficulties. 
After  marching  half  a  league,  it  pleased  God  we  should 
come  down  to  level  ground,  where  I  halted  to  await 
the  people.  These  I  told,  when  they  arrived,  that  all 
should  give  thanks  to  Our  Lord,  Who  had  brought  us 
safely  thus  far,  whence  we  could  first  behold  all  the  pro- 
vinces of  Mexico  and  Temixtitan  which  are  on  the  lakes 
and  in  their  neighbourhood.  Although  we  were  glad  at 
beholding  them,  we  felt  some  sorrow,  remembering  the 
losses  we  had  sustained,  and  we  all  vowed  never  to  quit 
the  country  without  victory,  even  if  we  died  there.  With 
this  determination,  we  all  advanced  as  merrily  as  if  it 
were  a  pleasure  party.  The  enemy  having  already  ob- 
served us,  instantly  made  many  and  great  smoke  signals 
all  over  the  country,  so  I  again  exhorted  and  cautioned 
the  Spaniards  that  they  should  behave  as  they  had  al- 
ways done  and  as  was  expected  of  them,  and  that  no  one 
should  stray  aside  but  all  should  march  in  good  order 
close  together.  Already  the  Indians  began  to  yell  at  us 
from  some  hamlets  and  small  towns,  calling  on  the  entire 
land  for  the  people  to  assemble  and  attack  us  at  some 
bridges  and  difficult  places  near  by  there.  We  made 
such  haste,  however,  that  we  were  already  down  in  the 
plain  before  they  could  collect;  and,  marching  thus,  we 
met  certain  squadrons  of  Indians  on  the  road  in  front 
of  us,  and  I  ordered  fifteen  horsemen  to  break  through 
them,  which  they  did  without  any  loss  to  ourselves, 
killing  some  of  them  with  their  lances.     We  followed  on 

(3^5)  of  an  (T^) 

Height  feet 

Tothe-TteUfirrn      114 

2  3  -4  SjJ  7 



From  The  Conquest  of  Mexico,  by  Diaz  del  Castillo.     Translated  by  Maurice  Keatinge 

Third  Letter  13 

our  road  towards  the  city  of  Tesaico  [Texcoco],  which 
is  one  of  the  greatest  and  finest  to  be  found  in  all  these 
parts,  and,  as  the  people  on  foot  were  somewhat  tired, 
and  it  was  getting  late,  we  slept  in  a  town  called  Coate- 
peque  (which  we  found  deserted)  which  is  subject  to  the 
city  of  Tesaico  and  three  leagues  distant  from  it. 

That  night  we  bore  in  mind  that,  as  this  city  and  its 
provinces,  called  Aculuacan,  is  very  great,  and  contains 
many  people,  possibly  more  than  a  hundred  and  fifty 
thousand  men  were  ready  at  the  time  to  attack  us,  so  I, 
with  ten  of  the  horsemen,  took  the  watch  and  guard  of  the 
first  quarter,  and  ordered  the  people  to  be  well  on  the 
alert.  The  next  day,  which  was  Monday,  the  last  of 
December,  we  followed  our  road  in  the  usual  order,  and 
at  a  quarter  of  a  league  from  the  town  of  Coatepeque, 
while  we  were  all  advancing  amidst  perplexity,  discussing 
with  each  other  as  to  whether  the  Tesaicans  would  be 
hostile  or  friendly,  rather  believing  that  it  would  be  the 
former,  four  principal  Indians  met  us  on  the  road  bearing 
a  banner  of  gold  on  a  pole, !  which  weighed  about  four 
marks  of  gold,  giving  us  to  understand  by  this  sign  that 
they  came  peaceably;  God  only  knows  how  much  we 
desired  peace,  and  how  much  we  stood  in  need  of  it,  being 
as  we  were  so  few  and  so  cut  off  from  help  in  the  midst 
of  the  forces  of  our  enemies.  When  I  saw  the  four 
Indians,  one  of  whom  was  known  to  me,  I  halted  our 
people  and  met  them.  After  we  had  greeted  one  another, 
they  said  they  came  on  the  part  of  the  chief  of  that  city 
and   province,    who   is   called   Guanacacin.2     They   be- 

1  This  was  the  usual  flag  of  truce.  It  was  in  the  form  of  a  square 
of  netting.  Cortes,  with  Israelitish  rapidity,  calculated  its  money 
value  at  four  marks,  and  Bernal  Diaz  was  equally  quick  at  estimating 
it  to  be  worth  eighty  dollars:  eight  ounces  went  the  mark. 

2  Coanacochtzin  succeeded  his  brother  Cacamatzin  who  was 
strangled  by  order  of  Cortes  on  the  Sorrowful  Night.  He  had  long 
aspired  to  his  brother's  crown,  and,  with  his  younger  brother  Ixtlil- 
xochitl,  shared  in  the  betrayal  of  Cacamatzin  when  he  was  seized  in 

14  Letters  of  Cortes 

sought  me,  on  his  part,  to  do  no  injury  to  his  country 
nor  to  permit  any  to  be  done;  because  the  people  of 
Temixtitan  were  to  blame  for  the  past  injuries  I  had 
sustained  and  not  they,  and  they  wished  to  be  Your 
Majesty's  vassals  and  my  friends,  as  they  would  always 
preserve  our  friendship;  and  they  invited  us  to  enter 
the  city,  where  by  their  deeds,  we  should  recognise  their 
sincerity.  I  answered,  after  welcoming  them  through 
the  interpreters,  that  I  rejoiced  in  their  peace  and  friend- 
ship, and  that,  though  they  excused  themselves  for  the 
war  waged  on  me  in  the  city  of  Temixtitan,  they  also 
well  knew  that  in  certain  of  their  subject  towns,  five 
or  six  leagues  from  the  city  of  Tesaico,  they  had  killed 
five  horsemen,  forty-five  of  my  foot-soldiers,  and  more 
than  three  hundred  Indians  of  Tascaltecal,  and  had  taken 
much  silver,  gold,  and  other  things  from  them;  also  that, 
inasmuch  as  they  could  not  excuse  themselves  from  this 
fault,  the  penalty  would  be  the  restoration  of  our  prop- 
erty; and  that  on  this  condition, — although  they  well 
deserved  death  for  having  killed  so  many  Christians, — 
I  would  make  peace  with  them,  since  they  offered  it  to 
me,  but  otherwise  I  would  have  to  treat  them  with  the 
utmost  severity.  They  answered  that  the  lord  and  chief 
of  Temixtitan  had  taken  all  those  things,  but  they  would 
search  for  what  they  could,  and  return  it  to  me.  They 
asked  me  if  I  would  come  that  day  to  the  city,  or  would 
lodge  in  one  of  the  two  towns  similar  to  suburbs,  called 
Coatinchan  and  Guaxuta, f  which  extend  unbrokenly  for 
about  a  league  and  a  half  from  it.  The  latter,  as  it 
transpired  afterwards,  was  what  they  wished.  I  told 
them  that  I  would  not  stop  until  I  reached  the  city  of 

his  palace  at  Texcoco  and  carried  by  boat  to  Mexico.  Ixtlilxochitl 
had  already  met  Cortes  on  the  road  from  Tlascala  to  Tlepehuacan, 
bearing  likewise  his  flag  of  truce,  and  offering  his  friendship  and 

1  Coatlinchan  and  Huexothla.     From  Chiantla  and  Texcoco  the  vil- 
lages and  haciendas  extended  in  an  unbroken  succession  to  Coatepec. 

Third  Letter  15 

Tesaico;  and  they  said  we  would  be  welcome  and  they 
would  go  ahead  and  prepare  quarters  for  the  Spaniards 
and  myself.  On  reaching  these  two  towns,  some  of  their 
chiefs  came  out  to  meet  us  and  bring  us  food. 

About  noon,  we  reached  the  body  of  the  city  where 
they  had  prepared  our  quarters  in  a  very  large  house, 
which  had  belonged  to  the  father  of  Guan-  Cortes 
acacin,  lord  of  the  said  city.  Before  we  Arrives  at 
entered  our  quarters,  I  assembled  our  people,  Texcoco 
and  proclaimed  by  the  public  crier  that  no  one  under 
penalty  of  death  should  leave  the  quarters  without 
my  permission.  The  building  was  so  large  that 
double  the  number  of  Spaniards  could  have  lodged 
comfortably  in  it.  I  did  this  so  'that  [the  natives  of 
the  city  might  be  reassured  and  return  to  their  homes, 
because  it  seemed  to  me  that  we  did  not  see  a  tenth  part 
of  the  people  usually  found  in  the  city,  nor  any  women 
and  children;  which  was  an  alarming  sign.  On  the  day 
we  entered  the  city,  which  was  New  Year's  Eve,  I  dis- 
posed our  quarters,  and,  still  somewhat  disquieted  on 
account  of  the  few  people,  and  seeing  these  so  uneasy, 
the  thought  struck  us  that  they  refrained  from  showing 
themselves  and  going  about  the  city  on  account  of  fear, 
which  somewhat  quieted  our  apprehensions.  Towards 
evening,  certain  Spaniards  mounted  some  lofty  terraces, 
from  whence  they  could  observe  the  whole  town,  and 
they  saw  that  all  the  natives  were  abandoning  it,  some 
putting  their  effects  in  canoes  (which  they  call  acales) 
on  the  lake,  and  others  going  up  into  the  hills.  Although 
I  immediately  ordered  their  departure  to  be  stopped,  it 
was  already  so  late  that  night  overtook  us,  and,  as  they 
used  such  great  haste,  it  was  useless.  Thus  the  chief 
of  the  city,  whom  I  longed,  as  for  my  salvation,  to  have 
in  my  hands,  escaped  with  many  of  the  other  chiefs  to 
the  city  of  Temixtitan,  which  by  the  lake  is  six  leagues 
from  there,  taking  away  all  their  possessions.     For  this 

1 6  Letters  of  Cortes 

reason,  and  to  save  what  they  wanted,  those  messengers 
had  come  to  see  me  as  I  have  said  above,  so  as  to  delay 
me  somewhat,  that  upon  entering  the  city  I  might  do 
them  no  harm;  and  that  night  they  thus  abandoned  not 
only  us  but  also  their  city. 

Three  days  thus  elapsed  in  this  city  without  any  en- 
counter with  the  Indians,  for  they  neither  dared  to  at- 
tack us,  nor  were  we  disposed  to  go  out  far  searching  for 
them,  as  my  final  intention  was,  that  if  ever  they  should 
wish  to  come  seeking  peace,  to  receive  them,  and  to  always 
require  this  of  them.  At  this  time  the  lords  of  Coatinchan, 
Guaxuta,  and  Autengo, *  which  are  three  of  their  large 
towns,  and  are,  as  I  have  said,  incorporated  and  joined 
to  the  said  city,  came,  weeping,  to  ask  me  to  pardon  them 
for  having  absented  themselves  from  their  country,  say- 
ing that  they  had  never  fought  with  me,  at  least  not  of 
their  own  free  will,  and  promising  hereafter  and  hence- 
forth to  do  all  that  I  might  command  them  in  the  name 
of  Your  Majesty.2  I  told  them,  through  the  interpreters, 
that  they  had  already  known  the  good  treatment  I  had 
always  shown  them,  and  that,  in  leaving  their  country 
and  the  rest,  they  had  done  wrong;  but,  inasmuch  as  they 
promised  to  be  our  friends,  they  must  inhabit  their  homes, 
and  bring  back  their  wives  and  children,  and  I  would 
treat  them  according  to  their  deeds.  They  went  back, 
as  it  seemed  to  us,  not  very  well  content. 

When  the  lord  of  Mexico  and  Temixtitan,  and  all  the 
other  lords  of  Culua  (when  this  name  of  Culua  is  used  it 
must  be  understood  as  meaning  all  the  country  and 
provinces  of  these  parts  subject  to  Temixtitan),  knew 
that  the  lords  of  these  provinces  had  offered  themselves 
as  vassals  of  Your  Majesty,  they  sent  them  certain 
messengers  to  tell  them  that  they   had   behaved  very 

i  Now  called  Tenango  Tepopula. 

2  These  people  came  begging  forgiveness  for  their  part  in  the 
former  hostilities  and  offering  assistance;  thus  one  by  one,  the  adjacent 
cities  and  tribes  abandoned  the  capital  to  its  fate. 

Third  Letter  17 

badly;  and  that,  if  they  had  done  it  from  fear,  they 
should  realise  that  the  Culuans  were  many,  and  had 
sufficient  power  to  kill  me  and  all  the  Spaniards  and  all 
the  Indians  of  Tascaltecal,  which  indeed  they  would  very 
soon  accomplish;  but  that,  if  they  had  done  it  to  save 
their  lands,  they  should  abandon  them  and  come  to 
Temixtitan,  where  they  would  receive  larger  and  greater 
towns  for  their  residence.  The  chiefs  of  Coatinchan  and 
Guaxuta  bound  these  messengers,  and  brought  them  to 
me;  and  they  immediately  confessed  that  they  had  come 
from  the  lords  of  Temixtitan,  but  that  it  had  been  to  ask 
those  chiefs  to  act  as  mediators,  since  they  were  my 
friends,  in  making  peace  between  them  and  myself.  But 
the  men  of  Guaxuta  and  Coatinchan  denied  this  saying, 
and  added  that  the  people  of  Mexico  and  Temixtitan 
desired  nothing  but  war.  Although  I  believed  they 
spoke  the  truth,  nevertheless,  as  I  wished  to  entice  the 
people  of  the  great  city  into  friendship  with  us,  because 
on  them  depended  peace  or  war  with  the  other  provinces 
which  had  revolted,  I  ordered  those  messengers  to  be 
liberated,  and  told  them  to  have  no  fears,  for  I  would 
send  them  again  to  Temixtitan.  I  prayed  them  to 
tell  those  lords  that,  although  I  had  reason  to  do  so,  I 
did  not  want  war  with  them,  but  rather  to  be  friends  as 
we  had  been  before ;  and  in  order  to  assure  them  still  more 
and  to  win  them  over  to  the  service  of  Your  Majesty, 
I  sent  them  word  that  I  well  knew  that  the  principal 
persons  who  had  led  them  into  the  past  war  were  already 
dead ;  that  the  past  was  the  past,  and  that  they  ought  not 
to  provoke  the  destruction  of  their  lands  and  cities,  as 
I  would  be  much  distressed  by  it.  With  this  I  set  the 
messengers  free,  and  they  went  away,  promising  to  bring 
me  the  answer.  The  lords  of  Coatinchan  and  Guaxuta 
and  I  remained  better  friends  on  account  of  this  good 
action  than  before,  and  I  pardoned  them  their  past  errors 
and  thus  they  left  well  satisfied. 

VOL.  IX. 2 

1 8  Letters  of  Cortes 

Having  been  seven  or  eight  days  in  the  city  of  Tesaico 
without  hostilities  or  any  encounter,  fortifying  our 
Destruction  quarters,  and  ordering  everything  necessary 
of  for  our  defence,  and  for  attacking  the  enemy, 

IztaPalaPan  and,  seeing  they  did  not  attack  me,  I  sal- 
lied out  from  the  city  with  two  hundred  Spaniards, 
amongst  whom  were  eighteen  horsemen,  thirty  archers, 
ten  musketeers,  and  three  or  four  thousand  friendly 
Indians.  I  followed  the  shore  of  the  lake  till  we 
reached  the  city  called  Iztapalapa,  which  is  two 
leagues  by  water  from  the  great  city  of  Temixtitan, 
and  six  from  Tesaico;  it  contains  about  ten  thousand 
households,  and  half,  or  even  two-thirds,  of  it  is  built 
on  the  lake.  Its  lord,  Montezuma's  brother,  whom  the 
Indians,  after  the  latter's  death,  had  selected  as  sovereign, 
was  the  leading  one  in  making  war  on  us,  and  expelling 
us  from  the  city.  For  this  reason,  as  well  as  because  I 
had  learned  that  the  people  of  Iztapalapa  were  very 
badly  disposed  towards  us,  I  determined  to  march 
against  them.  When  their  people  perceived  me,  about 
two  leagues  before  arriving  there,  some  warriors 
immediately  appeared  on  land,  and  others  in  canoes  on 
the  lake;  thus  we  advanced  over  those  two  leagues, 
skirmishing,  both  with  those  on  land  and  with  those  on 
water,  till  we  reached  the  said  city.  Almost  two-thirds 
of  a  league  outside  the  town,  they  had  opened  a  causeway, 
which  was  like  a  dyke  between  the  fresh  and  salt-water 
lakes,  as  Your  Majesty  may  see  from  the  map  of  the  city 
of  Temixtitan  I  have  sent.  When  the  dyke  was  opened 
the  water  of  the  salt  lake  began  to  rush  with  great  im- 
petus into  that  of  the  fresh- water  lake,  although  the  two 
lakes  are  more  than  half  a  league  apart;  while  we,  not 
noticing  the  trap  in  our  eagerness  for  victory,  passed  all 
right  and  continued  our  approach,  until  we  entered, 
mixed  up  with  the  enemy,  into  the  city.  As  they  were 
already  warned  of  our  approach,  all  the  houses  on  land 

Third  Letter  19 

were  deserted,  and  all  the  people  took  refuge  with  their 
property  in  the  houses  on  the  lake,  and  those  who  fled 
also  retreated  to  them,  fighting  us  very  stoutly.  But 
Our  Lord  was  pleased  to  so  strengthen  His  own  that  we 
pursued  them  until  we  drove  them  into  the  water,  some- 
times breast  high,  and  at  other  times  swimming;  and  we 
captured  many  of  the  houses  in  the  water.  More  than 
six  thousand  souls,  men,  women,  and  children  of  the 
inhabitants,  perished,  for  our  Indian  allies,  seeing  the 
victory  which  God  gave  us,  had  the  sole  idea  to  kill  right 
and  left. 

As  night  came  on,  I  collected  my  people,  and  set  fire 
to  some  of  the  houses;  and,  while  they  were  burning,  it 
seemed  that  Our  Lord  inspired  me,  and  recalled  to  my 
mind  the  dyke  I  had  seen  on  the  road,  and  I  figured  to 
myself  what  a  great  danger  it  was.  I  determined  to  leave 
the  city,  it  being  already  far  into  the  night  and  quite 
dark.  When  I  reached  the  water,  which  may  have  been 
about  nine  o'clock  at  night,  it  was  so  deep,  and  flowed 
with  such  impetus,  that  we  passed  it  running  full  tilt,  but 
some  of  our  friendly  Indians  were  drowned,  and  all  the 
plunder  that  had  been  taken  in  the  city  was  lost.  I 
assure  Your  Majesty  that,  if  we  had  not  passed  the  water 
that  night,  or  had  waited  three  hours  more,  none  of  us 
would  have  escaped,  because  we  should  have  been 
surrounded  by  water,  without  having  an  outlet  any- 
where. When  day  broke,  we  saw  that  the  water  of 
the  one  lake  had  filled  that  of  the  other  and  was  run- 
ning no  more,  and  that  all  the  salt  lake  was  covered 
with  canoes  filled  with  warriors,  expecting  to  take  us 
there.  I  returned  that  day  to  Tesaico,  fighting  some- 
times with  those  on  the  lake,  though  we  could  do 
them  little  harm,  as  they  would  immediately  retreat  in 
their  canoes. 

On  arriving  at  Tesaico,  I  found  the  people  I  had  left 
there  all  safe,  and  without  having  had  any  encounter; 

20  Letters  of  Cortes 

and  they  were  very  glad  at  our  coming  and  our  victory. 
The  day  after  we  arrived  a  Spaniard,  who  had  been 
wounded,  died,  and  he  was  the  first  white  man  the  In- 
dians had  killed  in  this  campaign.  The  next  day,  certain 
messengers,  from  the  city  of  Otumba  and  four  other  cities 
near  to  it,  which  are  four  or  five  leagues  from  Tesaico, 
arrived  in  this  city.  They  came  to  beg  me  to  pardon 
them  for  any  fault  of  theirs  in  the  past  war,  because  all 
the  power  of  Mexico  and  Temixtitan  gathered  in  Otumba 
when  we  retreated  routed,  believing  they  could  finish  us. 
The  people  of  Otumba  saw  plainly  that  they  could  not 
clear  themselves  from  blame,  although  they  excused 
themselves,  saying  they  had  been  commanded;  but,  to 
incline  me  the  more  towards  leniency,  they  told  me  that 
the  lords  of  Temixtitan  had  sent  other  messengers,  asking 
them  to  adhere  to  their  party  and  not  to  conclude  any 
friendship  with  us,  otherwise  they  would  fall  upon  them 
and  destroy  them.  They  declared,  however,  that  they 
would  rather  be  vassals  of  Your  Majesty,  and  obey  my 
commands.  I  answered  that  they  knew  very  well  how 
blameworthy  they  were  for  what  had  happened,  and,  to 
secure  my  pardon  and  belief  in  their  professions,  they 
would  first  have  to  bring  me,  as  prisoners,  those  messen- 
gers of  whom  they  spoke,  and  all  the  natives  of  Mexico  and 
Temixtitan  who  remained  in  their  country;  and  that  I 
would  not  otherwise  pardon  them;  and  that  they  should 
return  to  their  homes  with  their  people,  and  then  prove 
by  their  deeds  that  they  were  good  vassals  of  Your 
Majesty.  Although  we  exchanged  many  other  argu- 
ments, they  were  unable  to  get  anything  else  out  of  me, 
and  returned  to  their  country  assuring  me  they  would 
always  do  what  I  wished,  and  from  henceforward  they 
have  always  been,  and  are,  loyal  and  obedient  in  Your 
Majesty's  service. 

In  the  other  account,  Very  Fortunate  and  Most  Ex- 
cellent  Prince,   I  told  Your  Majesty  that,   when  they 

Third  Letter  21 

routed  and  expelled  me  from  the  city  of  Temixti- 
tan,  I  took  with  me  the  son  and  two  daughters 
of  Montezuma,  the  lord  of  Tesaico,  Cacamacin,  guccessjon 
his  two  brothers,  and  many  other  chiefs  whom  to  the 

I  held  prisoners,  and  that  all  of  them  had  Throne  of 
been  killed  by  the  enemy  (although  they  be- 
longed to  their  own  nation  and  some  of  them  were  their 
chiefs),  except  two  brothers  of  Cacamacin,  who  by  a 
happy  chance  were  able  to  escape.  When  I  reached 
the  province  of  Tascaltecal,  one  of  these  two  brothers, 
called  Ipacsuchil,1  otherwise  called  Cucascacin,  whom  I 
had  already,  in  the  name  of  Your  Majesty  and  with  the 
approval  of  Montezuma,  appointed  lord  of  the  city  of 
Tesaico  and  the  province  of  Aculuacan,  escaped,  and 
returned  to  the  city  of  Tesaico,  where  they  had  elected 
for  chief  another  of  his  brothers  called  Guanacacin,2 
whom  I  have  above  mentioned.  It  is  said  that  he  had 
Cucascacin,  his  brother,  killed  in  the  following  manner: 
On  his  arrival  in  Tesaico,  the  guards  seized  him  and  in- 
formed Guanacacin  their  lord,  who  communicated  the 
news  to  the  lord  of  Temixtitan.  As  soon  as  the  latter 
heard  that  the  said  Cucascacin  had  come  back,  he  could 
not  believe  he  had  escaped  from  us,  but  suspected  he 
must  have  gone  there  in  our  interest  to  furnish  us  some 
information ;  so  he  immediately  sent  order  to  Guanacacin 
to  kill  Cucascacin,  his  brother.  Guanacacin  obeyed 
without  delay.  The  younger  of  the  brothers  still  re- 
mained with  me,  and  being  quite  a  lad,  our  conversa- 
tion made  more  impression  upon  him,  and  he  became  a 
Christian,  taking  the  name  of  Don  Fernando.3      When 

1  Cortes  misses  this  name  entirely;  which  is  not  to  be  wondered 
at.  as  the  boy  was  called  Ahuaxpitcatzin. 

2  Meaning  Coanacochtzin. 

3  He  is  described,  by  the  historian  Ixtlilxochitl,  as  being  as 
white  as  a  Spaniard,  tall,  graceful,  and  of  genial  manners.  He  spoke 
Castilian  fluently,  and  almost  every  evening  after  supper  he  spent 
much  time  in  discussion  with  Cortes,  who  became  very  fond  of  him. 

22  Letters  of  Cortes 

I  left  the  province  of  Tascaltecal  for  Mexico  and  Temix- 
titan,  I  left  him  there  with  certain  Spaniards,  and  I  shall 
relate  hereafter  to  Your  Majesty  what  afterwards  hap- 
pened there. 

The  day  after  my  return  from  Iztapalapa  to  the  city 
of  Tesaico,  I  determined  to  send  Gonzalo  de  Sandoval, 1 
aguacil  mayor  of  Your  Majesty,  in  command  of  twenty 
horsemen,  two  hundred  foot  soldiers,  musketeers,  archers, 
and  shield  bearers,  for  two  very  necessary  objects :  first, 
to  escort  out  of  this  province  certain  messengers  I  was 
sending  to  the  city  of  Tascaltecal  to  learn  in  what  state 
the  thirteen  brigantines,  which  were  being  made  there, 
were,  and  for  some  other  necessary  things,  as  well  for  the 
people  of  Vera  Cruz,  as  for  my  own  company;  and  second, 
to  make  sure  of  that  region,  so  that  the  Spaniards  might 
come  and  go  in  safety;  for  at  that  time  we  could  neither 
go  out  of  the  province  of  Aculuacan  without  passing 
through  the  enemy's  country,  nor  could  the  Spaniards 
in  Vera  Cruz  and  other  parts,  come  to  us  without  much 
danger  from  the  adversary.  I  ordered  the  aguacil 
mayor,  after  having  conducted  the  messengers  safely, 
to  go  to  a  province  called  Calco,2  bordering  on  this  of 
Aculuacan;  for  I  had  proofs  that  the  natives  of  that 
province,  although  belonging  to  the  league  of  Culua, 
wished  to  become  vassals  of  Your  Majesty  but  did  not 

This  lad  was  placed  on  the  throne  of  Texcoco,  and  Antonio  de  Villareal 
and  Pedro  Sanchez  Farfan  had  charge  of  his  education,  while  Prince 
Ixtlilxochitl,  who  had  also  been  baptised  under  the  name  of  Fernando, 
had  command  of  Texcocan  military  operations. 

1  Already  mentioned  as  alguacil  mayor  of  Vera  Cruz ;  he  was  a 
fellow  townsman  of  Cortes  from  Medellin  and  one  of  the  bravest  and 
most  competent  captains  in  Mexico,  being  also  extremely  popular 
with  his  men,  and  always  faithful  to  his  commander.  In  temperament, 
he  was  a  happy  contrast  to  Pedro  de  Alvarado.  His  death  at  an 
early  age,  which  took  place  in  1528  at  Palos,  was  a  great  grief  to  Cortes, 
who  attended  him  in  his  last  hours. 

2  Chalco  was  tributary  to  Mexico  but  under  a  ruler  of  its  own. 

Third  Letter  23 

dare,  on  account  of  a  certain  garrison  the  Culuans  had 
placed  near  them. 

The  said  captain  left,  taking  with  him  all  the  Indians 
of  Tascaltecal  who  had  carried  our  baggage,  and  others 
who  had  come  with  us  and  had  obtained  some  Sandoval's 
plunder  in  the  war.  The  latter  marched  some  Expedition 
distance  ahead,  as  the  Captain  believed  that,  t0 

if  the  Spaniards  brought  up  the  rear,  the 
enemy  would  not  dare  to  attack  them;  but  the  ad- 
versaries in  the  lake  towns  and  along  the  coast,  as 
soon  as  they  saw  them,  attacked  the  rear  of  the  Tas- 
caltecans  and  captured,  plundered,  and  even  killed  some 
of  them.  When  the  captain  arrived  with  the  horsemen 
and  foot  soldiers,  he  attacked  them  vigorously  with 
lances,  and  killed  many;  those  who  escaped  retreated  to 
the  water  and  the  other  towns  near  by.  The  Indians  of 
Tascaltecal  went  back  to  their  country  with  what  re- 
mained to  them,  accompanied  by  the  messengers  I  had 
sent.  All  these  being  placed  in  safety,  Gonzalo  de  San- 
doval continued  his  road  to  the  province  of  Calco,  which 
was  very  near  at  hand.  Early  next  morning  a  large 
number  of  the  enemy  came  out  to  attack  him,  and,  both 
having  formed  on  the  field,  our  men  opened  the  attack; 
the  horsemen  routed  two  squadrons  in  such  wise  that 
the  others  quickly  abandoned  the  field,  and  our  forces 
burned  and  killed  amongst  them. 

This  being  accomplished,  and  that  road  cleared,  the 
people  of  Calco  came  out  to  receive  the  Spaniards,  all 
rejoicing  together  greatly.  The  chiefs  said  they  wished 
to  come  and  speak  with  me,  so  they  left  and  came  to 
sleep  at  Tesaico,  where  some  of  them  appeared  before 
me  with  two  of  the  sons  of  the  lord  of  Calco.  They  gave 
me  about  three  hundred  dollars  of  gold  in  pieces  and  told 
me  how  their  father  had  died,  and  that,  at  the  time  of  his 
death,  he  had  told  them  that  the  greatest  grief  he  took 
with  him  was  not  to  see  me  before  he  died,  for  he  had  been 

24  Letters  of  Cortes 

expecting  me  a  long  time;  and  he  had  commanded  them  to 
come  and  see  me  as  soon  as  I  should  come  to  this  province, 
and  to  look  upon  me  as  their  father.  As  soon  as  they 
had  known  of  my  coming  to  the  city  of  Tesaico,  they 
said  that  they  had  wished  to  come  immediately  to  see  me, 
but,  out  of  fear  of  the  Culuans,  they  had  not  dared;  nor 
would  they  now  have  dared  to  come  had  the  captain 
whom  I  had  sent  not  arrived  in  their  country;  they 
added  that,  when  they  returned  to  it,  I  must  give  them 
many  other  Spaniards  to  conduct  them  in  safety.  They 
also  told  me  that  I  well  knew  that  never,  either  in  war 
or  otherwise,  had  they  been  against  me,  and  that  I  also 
well  knew  that,  when  the  Culuans  were  attacking  our 
quarters  in  Temixtitan  and  the  Spaniards  whom  I  had 
left  there  while  I  went  to  meet  Narvaez  in  Cempoal,  there 
were  two  Spaniards  in  their  country  in  charge  of  certain 
maize  which  I  had  sent  them  to  collect ;  they  had  escorted 
these  men  to  the  province  of  Guaxocingo,  for  they  knew 
that  the  people  there  were  our  friends,  so  that  the  Culuans 
might  not  kill  them  as  they  did  all  who  were  outside  the 
quarters  in  Temixtitan.  They  told  me  this  and  other 
things,  weeping,  and  I  thanked  them  very  much  for  their 
good  disposition  and  deeds,  promising  them  that  I  would 
always  do  everything  they  desired  and  that  they  should 
be  well  treated.  Thus  far  they  have  always  shown  /ery 
good  will,  and  have  proved  very  obedient  to  all  that  is 
commanded  them  on  the  part  of  Your  Majesty. 

These  sons  of  the  lord  of  Calco  and  those  who  came 
with  them  told  me  one  day  that,  as  they  wished  to  return 
to  their  country,  they  besought  me  to  give  them  people 
who  would  conduct  them  in  safety.  Gonzalo  de  San- 
doval, with  certain  horsemen  and  foot  soldiers,  escorted 
them,  with  orders  after  he  had  left  them  in  their  country, 
to  go  to  the  province  of  Tascaltecal  and  bring  back  with 
him  certain  Spaniards  who  were  there,  and  Don  Fernando, 
the   brother   of   Cacamacin,    whom   I   have   mentioned 

Third  Letter  25 

before.  Four  or  five  days  later  the  aguacil  mayor  re- 
turned with  the  Spaniards,  bringing  with  him  the  said 
Don  Fernando.  A  few  days  afterwards,  I  learned  that,  as 
he  was  a  brother  of  the  lords  of  this  city,  the  sovereignty 
belonged  to  him,  although  there  existed  other  brothers. 
For  this  reason,  and  because  the  province  was  without 
a  ruler,  inasmuch  as  his  brother  Guanacacin,  the  lord  of 
it,  had  deserted  it  and  gone  to  Temixtitan,  and  also 
because  Don  Fernando  was  a  very  good  friend  of  the 
Christians,  I,  in  Your  Majesty's  name,  caused  him  to  be 
acknowledged  as  ruler.  The  inhabitants  of  this  city, 
although  at  that  time  there  were  very  few  left  in  it,  elected 
him,  and  thenceforward  obeyed  him;  many  others  who 
were  absent,  or  who  had  fled,  began  to  return  to  the  city 
and  province  of  Aculuacan,  and  they  obeyed  and  served 
the  said  Don  Fernando;  and  thenceforward  the  city 
began  to  be  rebuilt  and  well  populated. 

Two  days  after  this  was  done,  the  lords  of  Coatinchan 
and  Guaxuta  came,  and  told  me  they  had  positive  in- 
formation that  all  the  power  of  Culua  would  come  against 
me  and  the  Spaniards,  for  the  whole  country  was  full  of 
foes ;  and  that  they  could  not  decide  whether  they  should 
bring  their  wives  and  children  where  I  was  or  if  they 
should  take  them  to  the  mountains;  for  they  were  very 
much  afraid.  I  told  them  not  to  be  at  all  afraid,  but 
to  stay  in  their  homes  without  making  any  change,  adding 
that  I  desired  nothing  so  much  as  to  meet  the  Culuans 
on  the  battle  field.  I  advised  them  to  be  prepared,  and 
to  place  their  watchmen  and  scouts  over  all  the  country, 
and,  as  soon  as  they  saw  or  learned  that  the  adversaries 
were  advancing,  to  let  me  know.  So  they  went  away 
well  admonished  as  to  what  I  had  commanded  them. 
That  night  I  prepared  all  our  force,  and  placed  many 
watchmen  and  scouts  everywhere  that  was  needful; 
and  we  never  slept  the  whole  night  nor  thought  of  any- 
thing but  this.     Thus  we  were  expecting  them  during 

26  Letters  of  Cortes 

the  whole  night,  believing  what  the  chiefs  of  Guaxuta 
and  Coatinchan  had  told  us. 

The  next  day,  I  learned  that  some  of  the  enemy  were 
moving  about  the  borders  of  the  lake,  hoping  to  sur- 
prise and  capture  some  of  the  Tascaltecans  who  were 
coming  and  going  for  the  camp  service.  I  also  learned 
that  they  had  confederated  with  two  towns,  subject  to 
Tesaico,  which  are  near  the  water,  in  order  to  do  us  all 
the  mischief  they  could ;  and  that  they  had  fortified  them- 
selves, and  prepared  barricades,  ditches,  and  other  works 
necessary  for  their  defence.  "Upon  learning  this,  I  took 
next  day  twelve  horsemen  and  two  hundred  foot  soldiers 
and  two  small  field  pieces,  and  went  to  the  place  where 
they  were,  about  a  league  and  a  half  from  the  city.  On 
the  way,  I  met  certain  of  the  enemy's  spies  and  others 
who  were  advancing,  so  we  charged  them,  capturing 
and  killing  some  of  them,  and  those  who  were  left  escaped 
to  the  water;  we  set  fire  to  a  part  of  those  towns  and 
returned  to  our  quarters  victorious  and  much  pleased. 
The  next  day  three  chiefs  of  those  towns  came  to  ask 
pardon  for  what  had  passed,  beseeching  us  not  to  destroy 
them,  and  promising  me  not  to  receive  those  of  Temixtitan 
any  more  in  their  town.  As  they  were  persons  of  no 
importance,  and  vassals  of  Don  Fernando,  I  pardoned 
them  in  Your  Majesty's  name. 

The  next  day,  there  came  to  me  certain  of  those  Indians, 
with  broken  and  bruised  heads,  telling  me  that  the  men 
of  Mexico  and  Temixtitan  had  returned  to  their  town, 
but,  not  meeting  with  the  reception  to  which  they  were 
accustomed,  had  ill-treated  the  inhabitants  and  taken 
some  of  them  prisoners,  and  that,  if  no  defence  had  been 
offered,  they  would  have  captured  everything.  They 
prayed  me  to  be  on  the  alert,  in  case  those  of  Temixtitan 
returned,  so  as  to  give  them  help;  and  with  this  they 
departed  to  their  town. 

The  people  whom  I  had  left  making  the  brigantines 

Third  Letter  27 

in  the  province  of  Tascaltecal  were  informed  that  a  ship 
had  arrived  at  the  port  of  Vera  Cruz,  in  which  Reinf0rce. 
had  come  thirty  or  forty  Spaniards  (besides  ments 
the  sailors),  eight  horses,  cross-bows,  muskets,  Arrive  at 
and  powder.  As  they  did  not  know  how  a  ruz 
we  were  progressing  with  the  war,  and  had  no  sure 
way  to  reach  us,  they  were  anxious;  and  some  of  the 
Spaniards  were  waiting  there,  for  they  did  not  dare 
to  come  on,  although  they  desired  to  bring  me  such 
good  news.  When  one  of  my  servants,  whom  I  had  left 
there,  learned  that  some  of  them  wished  to  try  to  reach 
me,  he  proclaimed,  by  the  public  crier,  serious  penalties 
for  anyone  who  should  leave  there  until  I  had  sent  orders 
to  do  so.  But  one  of  my  lads,  realising  that  nothing  in 
the  world  would  give  me  so  much  pleasure  as  to  know 
of  the  arrival  of  that  ship  and  the  help  it  had  brought, 
left  by  night,  although  the  country  was  not  safe,  and  came 
to  Tesaico,  where  we  were  greatly  amazed  to  see  him 
arrive  alive.  We  were  very  glad  of  the  news,  as  we  were 
in  extreme  need  of  relief. 

The  same  day,  Most  Catholic  Lord,  certain  good 
messengers  from  Calco  arrived  here  in  Tesaico,  and  told 
me  that,  on  account  of  their  having  come  to  offer  them- 
selves as  vassals  of  Your  Majesty,  Mexico  and  Temixtitan 
were  about  to  attack  and  destroy  them,  and  were  there- 
fore assembled,  and  had  prepared  all  their  neighbours; 
hence  they  besought  me  to  help  and  aid  them  in  such 
great  necessity,  for,  if  I  did  not  do  so,  they  would  find 
themselves  in  the  greatest  straits.  I  assure  Your  Majesty, 
as  I  wrote  in  my  former  account,  that  next  to  our  own 
hardships  and  privations,  the  greatest  uneasiness  I  felt 
was  caused  by  not  being  able  to  aid  and  favour  the  friendly 
Indians  who  were  molested  and  harassed  by  the  Culuans 
for  being  vassals  of  Your  Majesty.  I  and  my  companions 
would  always  go  to  the  extent  of  our  possibilities  in  this, 
as  it  seemed  to  us  that  in  nothing  could  we  further  the 

28  Letters  of  Cortes 

service  of  Your  Caesarean  Majesty  more  than  in  favouring 
and  aiding  Your  vassals.  In  the  emergency  in  which 
these  Calcans  appealed  to  me,  I  was  unable  to  do  for 
them  what  I  wished,  and  I  told  them  I  could  not,  as  at 
this  season  I  had  wished  to  send  for  the  brigantines  and 
had  prepared,  for  this  purpose,  all  the  people  of  the  pro- 
vince of  Tascaltecal,  from  whence  they  had  to  be  brought 
in  pieces,  and  I  was  obliged  to  send  horsemen  and  foot 
soldiers  for  them.  I  told  them,  however,  that  as  they 
already  knew  that  the  natives  of  Guajocingo,  Churultecal, 
and  Guacachula,  were  all  vassals  of  Your  Majesty  and  our 
friends,  they  should  go  to  them  and  pray  them  in  my 
name  to  give  them  aid  and  succour,  as  they  lived  very 
near  to  their  country,  and  to  obtain  from  them  a  garrison 
with  whom  they  might  be  safe  till  I  could  aid  them. 
For  the  present,  I  said,  I  was  unable  to  give  them  any 
other  assistance. 

Although  they  were  not  as  well  satisfied  as  if  I  had 
given  them  some  Spaniards,  they  thanked  me,  and  begged 
me  to  give  them  a  letter  of  mine  to  ensure  greater  success ; 
because  between  the  people  of  Calco  and  those  two  pro- 
vinces owing  to  their  being  of  different  parties,  there 
had  always  existed  some  differences.  While  occupied  in 
making  these  arrangements,  certain  messengers  unex- 
pectedly arrived  from  the  said  provinces  of  Guajocingo 
and  Guacachula,  who,  in  the  Calcans'  presence,  told  how 
the  chiefs  of  those  provinces  had  not  seen  or  heard  of 
me  since  I  left  the  province  of  Tascaltecal,  but,  neverthe- 
less, had  always  kept  their  watchmen  on  the  hills  and 
mountains  which  border  their  country  and  overlook 
Mexico  and  Temixtitan,  in  order  that,  if  they  saw  many 
smokes,  which  are  the  signals  of  war,  they  might  come 
to  help  me  with  their  vassals  and  people;  and,  as  they  had 
recently  seen  more  smoke  than  ever,  they  had  come  to 
know  how  I  was  and  if  I  needed  anything,  so  as  to  send 
me  some  warriors.     I  thanked  them  very  much,   and 

Third  Letter  29 

told  them  that,  by  Our  Lord's  blessing,  the  Spaniards 
and  myself  were  well  and  had  always  been  victorious 
over  the  enemy,  and  that,  besides  greatly  rejoicing  in 
their  good  will  and  presence,  I  rejoiced  still  more  to  form 
an  alliance  of  friendship  between  them  and  the  Calcans 
who  were  present;  and  I  prayed  them,  as  they  were  both 
vassals  of  Your  Majesty,  to  become  good  friends  and  help 
one  another  against  the  Culuans  who  were  wicked  and 
perverse,  especially  now  when  the  Calcans  were  in  need 
of  aid  as  the  Culuans  intended  to  attack  them.  Thus 
they  became  very  good  friends  and  confederates,  and, 
after  remaining  there  two  days  with  me,  both  departed 
very  happy  and  satisfied,  and  rendered  one  another 
mutual  service. 

Three  days  later,  when  we  knew  that  the  brigantines 
had  been  completed  and  the  people  who  were  to  bring 
them  were  ready,  I  sent  Gonzalo  de  Sandoval, 
alguacil  mayor  with  fifteen  horsemen  and  two  the 

hundred  foot  soldiers  to  escort  them  to  me.  Murdered 
I  gave  orders  to  destroy  and  raze  a  large  Spaniards 
town,  subject  to  this  of  Tesaico,  which  borders  on  the 
confines  of  the  province  of  Tascaltecal,  because  its 
natives  had  killed  five  horsemen  and  forty-five  foot 
soldiers  who  were  coming  from  Vera  Cruz  to  Temixtitan 
when  I  was  besieged  there,  ignorant  at  the  time  that  such 
a  great  treachery  had  been  practised  against  us.  When 
we  entered  Tesaico  this  time,  we  found  in  their  places 
of  worship  or  mosques  of  the  city  the  skins  of  five  horses 
with  their  hoofs  and  shoes,  as  well  tanned  as  they  could 
have  been  in  any  part  of  the  world.  They  had  offered 
these  to  their  idols  in  token  of  victory,  together  with  much 
wearing  apparel  and  other  things  belonging  to  the  Span- 
iards. We  found  the  blood  of  our  brothers  and  com- 
panions spilled  and  sacrificed  all  about  these  towers  and 
mosques,  a  thing  which  filled  us  with  grief,  for  all  our 
past  tribulations  were  thus  revived.     The  traitors  of  that 

30  Letters  of  Cortes 

and  the  other  neighbouring  towns  had  placed  themselves 
in  ambush  on  each  side  of  a  difficult  pass  in  order  to  make 
sure  of  those  Christians  when  they  were  descending  a 
slope  on  foot,  leading  their  horses  behind  so  that  they 
were  unable  to  use  them,  and  to  execute  upon  them  the 
greatest  cruelty  that  has  ever  been  done;  for  they  took 
them  in  the  midst  killing  some,  while  others,  whom  they 
captured  alive,  they  brought  to  Tesaico  and  sacrificed, 
tearing  out  their  hearts  before  the  idols.  That  it  hap- 
pened thus,  is  proved  by  the  fact  that,  when  the  alguacil 
mayor  passed  there,  certain  Spaniards  who  had  accom- 
panied him,  found  in  a  house  of  a  village  which  is  between 
Tesaico  and  the  place  where  they  captured  and  killed 
the  Christians,  a  white  wall  on  which  the  following  words 
were  written  in  charcoal:  "Here  the  unhappy  Juan 
Yuste  was  kept  a  prisoner.1  A  thing  fit  without  doubt 
to  break  the  heart  of  those  who  saw  it.  He  was  a  gentle- 
man, one  of  the  five  horsemen.  When  the  alguacil  mayor 
arrived  at  that  town,  the  natives,  conscious  of  their  great 
guilt,  fled,  and  the  horsemen  and  Spanish  foot  soldiers 
and  the  friendly  Indians  pursued  and  killed  many  and 
captured  many  women  and  children  who  were  declared 
slaves.  However,  moved  by  compassion,  he  did  not  kill 
and  destroy  all  whom  he  might  have,  and  before  he  left 
there  he  even  collected  those  who  survived  and  restored 
them  to  their  town,  so  it  is  now  populated  again  and 
repentant  of  the  past. 

The  alguacil  mayor  proceeded  five  or  six  leagues 
towards  that  town  of  Tascaltecal  which  is  nearest  to 
the  borders  of  Culua,  and  there  he  met   the  Spaniards 

1  Juan  Yuste  came  originally  with  Panfilo  de  Narvaez,  passing 
later  into  service  under  Cortes.  He  started  with  five  horsemen  and 
twenty-five  foot  to  bring  some  gold  from  Vera  Cruz,  and  at  Tlascala 
he  was  joined  by  three  hundred  natives.  Ignorant  of  the  events  which 
had  followed  upon  Alvarado's  massacre  in  Mexico,  he  and  his  party 
proceeded  with  entire  confidence,  and  were  surprised  with  the  con- 
sequences Cortes  describes. 

Third  Letter  31 

and  the  people  who  were  to  bring  the  brigantines.  The 
day  after  he  arrived  they  left  there  with  the  planks 
and  cross  timbers,  all  of  which  were  carried  Transport 
in  the  most  perfect  order  by  eight  thousand  of  the 

men;  a  marvellous  sight  to  see,  and  it  seems  Brigantines 
to  me  even  to  hear  of,  the  bringing  of  thirteen  small 
ships  overland  a  distance  of  about  eighteen  leagues. 
I  assure  Your  Majesty  that  from  the  vanguard  to 
the  rear  was  a  distance  of  two  leagues.  When  they 
set  out,  they  took  eight  horsemen  and  a  hundred  Span- 
iards with  the  van,  and  more  than  ten  thousand  warriors 
on  the  flanks,  having  as  captains  Yutecad  and  Teutipil,1 
two  chiefs  amongst  the  nobles  of  the  city  of  Tascaltecal. 
In  the  rear-guard,  came  another  hundred  odd  Spaniards 
and  eight  horsemen,  and  another  ten  thousand  warriors 
well  armed,  who  had  for  captain,  Chichimecatecle, 
one  of  the  principal  lords  of  that  Province;  there  were  also 
other  captains  the  latter  had  brought  with  him.  When 
they  started  out,  Chichimecatecle  escorted  the  van  with 
the  planking,  and  the  other  two  captains  brought  up  the 
rear  with  the  joinings ;  but  when  they  entered  the  country 
of  Culua  the  masters  of  the  brigantines  ordered  the 
joinings  to  be  taken  ahead  and  the  plankings  to  remain 
behind;  as  the  latter  would  cause  the  most  hindrance 
should  any  disturbance  happen,  which  would  most  likely 
occur  in  the  front.  Chichimecatecle,  who  brought  the 
planking,  and  until  now  had  led  his  warriors  at  the  head 
of  the  vanguard,  took  this  as  an  affront,  and  there  was 
some  trouble  in  pacifying  him  and  making  him  remain 
in  the  rear-guard,  because  he  wished  to  meet  any  danger 
that  might  present  itself.  When  finally  he  did  agree  to 
this,  he  nevertheless  did  not  want  any  Spaniards  in 
the  rear-guard,  because  he  was  a  very  brave  man  and 
wished  to  have  the  honours  himself.  These  captains  also 
brought  two  thousand  Indians  carrying  provisions. 
1  Aiutecatl  and  Teutepil. 

32  Letters  of  Cortes 

In  this  order  and  agreement,  they  marched  three  days, 
and,  on  the  fourth,  they  entered  this  city  with  much 
rejoicing  and  noise  of  kettle-drums  when  I  went  out  to 
receive  them.  As  I  said  above,  the  people  were  so  spread 
out  that  from  the  entrance  of  the  first  until  the  last  had 
arrived  we  spent  six  hours  without  the  line  of  people 
being  once  broken.1  After  they  had  arrived,  and  I  had 
thanked  the  chiefs  for  the  good  service  they  had  done 
us,  we  assigned  them  their  quarters  and  provided  for 
them  the  best  we  could.  They  told  me  they  wished  to 
meet  the  Culuans  and  that  I  should  see  when  I  com- 
manded it  that  they  and  their  people  were  desirous  of 

1  History  hardly  records  a  greater  tour  de  force  than  the  con- 
struction, transport,  and  launching  of  these  brigantines:  the  glory 
of  the  conception  belongs  to  Cortes,  but  the  merit  of  its  execution 
was  due  to  the  Tlascalans.  Martin  Lopez,  a  ship-carpenter,  was  in 
charge  of  the  work,  assisted  by  a  few  other  Spaniards,  but  the  brunt 
of  the  work  and  the  cost  were  borne  by  the  Tlascalans. 

Prescott  recalls  two  instances  of  similar  undertakings  but  on  a 
smaller  scale  with  less  distance  to  cover :  the  first  was  during  the  siege 
of  Taranto  by  Hannibal,  and  the  second  at  the  same  place,  seventeen 
centuries  later  under  Gonsalvo  de  Cordoba.  Balboa  also  built  four 
small  boats  on  the  isthmus  of  Darien,  two  of  which  he  succeeded  in 
carrying  to  the  coast  and  launching  successfully.  For  magnitude  of 
the  undertaking,  distance  of  transport,  number  of  men  engaged,  with 
no  beasts  of  burden  to  help  them,  and  the  importance  of  the  issue  at 
stake,  the  achievement  of  Cortes  and  the  Tlascalans  stands  alone.  The 
arrival  of  the  convoy  at  Texcoco  was  rightly  made  the  occasion  of  a 
triumphal  entry,  to  the  sound  of  music  and  salutes,  while  the  crowds 
enthusiastically  cheered  for  Castile  and  Tlascala.  It  was  found 
necessary  to  build  a  canal  in  which  to  join  the  parts  of  the  brigantines 
together,  and  from  which  to  launch  them  safely  on  the  waters  of  the 
lake.  In  the  Voyage  de  Thomas  Gage,  the  author,  who  travelled  in 
Mexico  in  1626,  says  that,  as  the  tallow  and  oil  required  in  the  ship 
building  were  very  scarce  in  Texcoco,  they  were  obtained  from  the  dead 
bodies  of  the  Indians  slain  in  the  daily  skirmishes.  As  the  fat  of  dead 
Indians  was  found  useful  for  dressing  wounds,  there  is  no  reason  why 
it  should  not  do  equally  well  as  ship's  tallow.  Cortes  had  previously 
built  two  brigantines  on  the  lake,  bringing  the  cordage,  sails,  and  iron, 
from  the  dismantled  ships  in  Vera  Cruz,  just  to  show  Montezuma  what 
the  "water  houses"  were  like,  but  he  had  also  counted  on  using  them 
in  case  of  need;  they  had,  however,  been  destroyed  during  the  fighting 
with  Alvarado,  while  Cortes  was  absent. 

Third  Letter  33 

avenging  themselves  or  dying  with  us;  I  told  them  to 
rest  and  that  very  soon  I  would  give  them  plenty  to  do. 

When  those  warriors  of  Tascaltecal,  who  were  certainly 
for  hereabouts  very  dashing  men,  had  rested  in  Tesaico 
three  or  four  days,  I  prepared  twenty-five  horsemen, 
three  hundred  foot  soldiers,  five  hundred  archers  and 
musketeers,  and  six  small  field  pieces,  and,  without 
telling  anyone  where  we  were  going,  I  left  the  city 
at  nine  o'clock  in  the  morning.  With  me  were  the 
captains  already  named,  with  more  than  thirty  thousand 
in  their  divisions,  well  organised  after  their  fashion.  When 
it  was  getting  late,  we  met  a  body  of  the  enemy's  war- 
riors four  leagues  from  the  city,  and  our  horsemen  broke 
through  them  and  scattered  them  and,  as  the  warriors  of 
Tascaltecal  were  very  fleet,  they  followed,  and  we  killed 
many  of  our  adversaries;  and  that  night  we  slept  in  the 
field,  keeping  strict  watch. 

The  next  morning,  we  continued  our  march,  and  still 
I  had  not  given  out  where  I  intended  to  go,  because  I 
distrusted  some  of  the  people  of  Tesiaco  who  were  with 
us,  for  as  yet  I  had  no  confidence  in  them,  fearing  that 
they  might  give  information  to  the  people  of  Mexico  and 
Temixtitan  of  what  I  intended  to  do.  We  arrived  at  a 
town  called  Xaltoca,1  which  is  situated  in  the  midst  of 
the  lake,  and  we  found  around  it  many  trenches  full  of 
water  and,  as  these  surrounded  the  town,  it  was  very 
strong  because  the  horsemen  could  not  enter.  Our 
adversaries  yelled  a  great  deal,  discharging  darts  and 
arrows  at  us,  but  the  foot  soldiers  entered,  although 
with  some  difficulty,  and  expelled  them,  and  burnt  a 
great  part  of  the  town.  That  night,  we  slept  a  league 
from  there,  and  as  day  broke  we  continued  our  march, 
meeting  the  enemy  who  yelled  at  us  from  afar,  as  they 
are  accustomed  to  do  in  war,  a  thing  which  is  certainly 

1  Xatlocan :  a  place  near  Zumpango  surrounded  by  a  lake  of  the 
same  name:  it  was  a  dependency  of  Texcoco. 
VOL.  11.— 3 

34  Letters  of  Cortes 

frightful  to  hear,  and,  pursuing  them,  we  reached  a  great 
and  beautiful  city,  called  Guaticlan ; *  finding  it  deserted, 
we  lodged  in  it  that  night. 

The  next  day,  we  advanced  to  another  city,  called 
Tenainca,2  where  we  encountered  no  resistance,  and 
Cortes  without  halting  we  went  on  to  another,  called 
Advances  Acapuzalco,3  both  of  which  are  on  the  borders 
toTacuba  0f  the  iake;  ^nt  neither  did  we  stop  there 
as  I  wished  very  much  to  reach  another  city  near  by, 
called  Tacuba,  which  is  very  near  to  Temixtitan. 
When  we  were  close  to  it,  we  found  that  there  also 
they  had  made  many  trenches  filled  with  water,  and 
that  the  enemy  was  on  the  lookout.  As  soon  as 
we  saw  them,  we  and  our  friends  attacked  them  briskly, 
and  entered  the  city,  killing  some  and  expelling  the  other 
inhabitants  from  it.  As  it  was  already  late  then,  we  did 
nothing  else  that  night,  but  lodged  in  a  house  which  was  so 
large  that  we  easily  had  room  for  everybody. 

At  daybreak,  our  friendly  Indians  began  to  pillage  and 
set  fire  to  the  whole  city  except  our  quarters,  and  they 
put  such  diligence  into  it  that  a  fourth  part  was  burnt. 
This  was  done  because,  when  we  were  routed  the  other 
time  in  Temixtitan  and  passed  through  this  city,  its 
inhabitants  joined  those  of  Temixtitan  and  fought  us 
cruelly,  killing  many  Spaniards. 

Of  the  six  days  we  remained  in  the  city  of  Tacuba, 
none  passed  on  which  we  had  not  some  encounters 
and  skirmishes  with  the  enemy.  The  captains  of  the 
Tascaltecans,  and  some  of  their  men,,  exchanged  many 
challenges  with  those  of  Temixtitan,  and  they  would  fight 
most  beautifully  one  with  the  other;  and  many  arguments 
passed  between  them,  with  mutual  threats  and  insults, 

*  Cuauhtitlan,  three  leagues  from  Mexico. 

2  Tenayucan. 

3  Atzcapotzalco,  barely  one  league  from  Mexico ;  called  the  town  of 
Silversmiths  as  it  was  famous  for  its  metal  work. 

Third  Letter  35 

which  was  undoubtedly  a  sight  to  see.  During  all  this 
time,  many  of  the  Indians  were  killed,  without  any  of  our 
people  being  injured,  though  we  often  entered  by  the 
causeways  and  bridges  of  the  city,  where  they  had  so 
many  defences  that  they  resisted  us  stoutly.  Frequently 
they  would  pretend  to  give  us  a  chance  to  enter,  saying : 
"Come  in  and  enjoy  yourselves, "  and  at  other  times  they 
would  say :  '  *  Do  you  think  there  is  now  another  Monte- 
zuma, so  that  you  can  do  as  you  please?"  Once,  while 
these  speeches  were  passing,  I  placed  myself,  they 
being  on  the  other  side,  near  one  of  the  bridges  they  had 
taken  away,  and  signalled  to  our  people  to  remain  quiet ; 
and  they  also,  when  they  saw  that  I  wished  to  speak 
to  them,  silenced  their  people.  I  then  asked  them,  why 
they  were  so  foolish  as  to  court  destruction?  and,  if  there 
was  amongst  them  any  principal  chief,  to  call  him  be- 
cause I  wished  to  speak  to  him.  They  answered  that 
the  whole  multitude  of  warriors  I  saw  there  were  chiefs 
so  that  I  might  say  whatever  I  wished.  As  I  did  not 
make  answer,  they  began  to  insult  me.  Someone  of  our 
men,  I  do  not  know  who,  then  called  to  them  that  they 
would  die  of  hunger,  for  we  would  not  allow  them  to  come 
out  to  seek  for  food;  they  retorted  that  they  needed  none, 
and  that  when  they  did  they  would  eat  us  and  the  Tas- 
caltecans.  One  of  them  took  some  loaves  of  maize  bread 
and  threw  them  towards  us  saying:  "Take  it  and  eat  it 
if  you  are  hungry  for  we  are  not";  and  immediately  they 
began  to  yell  and  attack  us. 

As  my  coming  to  this  city  of  Tacuba  had  been  prin- 
cipally in  order  to  speak  with  those  of  Temixtitan,  and 
to  learn  their  intention,  and  as  my  being  there  profited 
nothing,  I  decided,  at  the  end  of  six  days,  to  return  to 
Tesaica  and  hasten  the  construction  of  the  brigantines, 
so  as  to  surround  the  enemy  by  water  and  land.  The  day 
we  left,  we  slept  in  the  city  of  Goatitan,  which  I  have 
mentioned  above,  nor  did  the  enemy  ever  cease  pursuing 

36  Letters  of  Cortes 

us,  though  the  horsemen  would  turn  against  them  from 
time  to  time,  and  thus  some  fell  into  our  hands. 

The  next  day,  we  set  out,  and,  as  our  adversaries  saw 
we  were  leaving,  they  thought  it  was  from  fear,  and  a 
great  number  gathered  and  began  to  pursue  us.  When 
I  saw  this,  I  ordered  the  foot  soldiers  to  go  ahead  without 
stopping,  and  five  horsemen  to  accompany  them,  as  their 
rear-guard,  while  I  remained  with  twenty  others.  Six 
of  these  I  ordered  to  place  themselves  in  ambush  in  one 
place,  six  in  another,  and  five  in  another,  while  I,  with 
three  more,  went  to  another  place ;  and  it  was  arranged 
that  when  the  enemy  had  passed,  believing  that  we  were  all 
marching  ahead,  as  soon  as  they  should  hear  me  cry, 
"Senor  Santiago!"  they  should  rush  out  and  attack  from 
behind.  When  the  time  came,  we  appeared,  and  fell 
upon  them  with  our  spears,  and  the  pursuit  lasted  in 
most  beautiful  style  for  about  two  leagues  over  a  plain 
as  smooth  as  the  palms  of  our  hands.  Thus  many  perished 
at  our  hands  and  at  those  of  the  friendly  Indians;  and 
the  others  dropped  behind  and  pursued  us  no  further, 
while  we  marched  on  and  overtook  our  people.  That 
night  we  slept  in  a  charming  town  called  Aculman,  two 
leagues  from  Tesaico,  for  which  we  left  the  next  day, 
entering  it  at  noon,  and  being  very  well  received  by  the 
alguacil  mayor  whom  I  had  left  in  command,  and  by 
all  the  people,  who  rejoiced  at  our  coming;  especially 
so  because,  since  the  day  we  left,  they  had  never  heard 
anything  of  us  or  of  what  had  happened  to  us,  and  they 
had  been  anxious  for  news  of  us.  The  day  after  we 
arrived,  the  chiefs  and  captains  of  Tascaltecal,  asking 
my  permission,  left  for  their  country  very  well  satisfied 
to  receive  a  share  of  the  spoils. 

Two  days  after  my  return  to  Tesaico,  certain  Indian 
messengers  came  from  the  lords  of  Calco,  and  told  me  that 
they  had  been  commanded  to  let  me  know,  on  their  part, 
that  the   people   of  Mexico  and  Temixtitan  were   com- 

Third  Letter  37 

ing  to  destroy  them,  and  asked  me,  as  they  had  on  other 
occasions,  to  send  them  some  help.  I  immediately  ar- 
ranged to  send  Gonzalo  de  Sandoval,  with  Sandoval>s 
twenty  horsemen  and  three  hundred  foot  sol-  victories  in 
diers,  whom  I  charged  to  make  all  haste  and tne  Province 
on  arriving  to  give  all  the  favour  and  help  of  Cbalco 
possible  to  those  vassals  of  Your  Majesty,  our  friends 
When  he  reached  Calco,  he  found  awaiting  him  a 
great  many  people,  assembled,  not  only  from  that  pro- 
vince, but  also  from  Guajocingo  and  Guacachula;  after 
ordering  what  was  to  be  done,  he  left,  taking  his  march 
towards  a  town  called  Guastepeque,1  where  the  Culuans 
were  in  garrison  and  from  which  place  they  did  harm 
to  the  Calcans.  At  a  town  on  the  road,  many  of  our 
foes  appeared,  but  our  friends  were  many  and  had  be- 
sides the  advantage  of  the  Spaniards  and  horsemen; 
and  all  united  and  charged  upon  them  and  drove  them 
from  the  field,  pursuing  them  with  great  slaughter.  They 
rested  for  the  night  in  that  town  before  Guastepeque 
and  the  next  day  they  left.  Just  as  they  were  about 
to  reach  the  town  of  Guastepeque,  the  Culuans  began  to 
attack  the  Spaniards,  who  in  a  short  time  routed  them, 
forcing  them  with  great  loss  out  of  the  town.  The 
horsemen  then  dismounted  in  order  to  feed  their  horses 
and  rest  themselves.  While  thus  off  their  guard,  the 
enemy  fell  upon  the  square  of  the  quarters,  screaming  and 
yelling  most  fiercely,  discharging  many  stones  and  darts 
and  arrows.  The  Spaniards  took  to  their  arms,  and  they 
and  our  friends  rushed  out  against  them  and  expelled 
them  again,  pursuing  them  for  more  than  a  league,  and 
killing  many.  Very  tired,  they  returned  that  night  to 
Guastepeque  where  they  rested  for  two  days. 

About  this  time  the  alguacil  mayor  learned  that  many 
hostile  warriors  had   assembled  in  a  town    called  Aca- 

1  Huaxtepec. 

38  Letters  of  Cortes 

pichtla,1  so  he  determined  to  go  thither  and  see  if  they 
would  surrender  peaceably  upon  his  demand.  This  town 
was  very  strongly  situated  upon  a  hill  where  it  could 
not  be  attacked  by  the  horsemen.  When  the  Spaniards 
arrived,  the  inhabitants,  without  waiting  for  anything, 
began  to  attack  them,  throwing  stones  on  them  from 
the  heights;  and,  although  many  of  our  friends  accom- 
panied the  alguacil  mayor,  they  dared  not  attack  the 
town,  seeing  its  strength,  nor  engage  their  adversaries. 
The  alguacil  mayor,  on  seeing  this,  determined  to  take  the 
heights  of  the  town  by  assault  or  die,  and,  with  the  cry 
of  "Seflor  Santiago!"  2  they  began  the  ascent;  and  God 
was  pleased  to  give  them  such  valour  that,  in  spite  of  the 
resistance  it  offered,  they  took  it,  but  at  the  cost  of  many 
wounded.  When  the  Indians,  our  friends,  followed 
them,  and  the  enemy  recognised  their  defeat,  there  was 
such  a  slaughter  by  our  people  and  a  throwing  of  the 
foe  from  the  heights,  that  those  who  were  present  affirmed 
that  a  small  river  near  the  town  was  so  dyed  with  blood 
that  for  more  than  an  hour  they  could  not  drink,  al- 
though on  account  of  the  heat  they  were  very  much  in 

1  Ayachapichtla ;  Sandoval  was  not  disposed  to  attack  because 
of  his  own  extreme  weariness,  and  the  exhausted  condition  of  his  men 
and  horses,  but  the  captain  Luis  Marin  counselled  him  on  no  account 
to  withdraw,  as  upon  the  Chalcans,  who  were  watching  only  to  see 
which  side  was  the  stronger  in  order  to  give  their  alliance  to  the  victor, 
the  moral  effect  would  be  bad. 

2  Santiago  (St.  James)  was  the  patron  Saint  of  Spain,  and  from 
the  times  of  the  Moorish  wars  his  name  had  been  their  battle  cry. 
Bernal  Diaz  naively  relates  that  this  battle  was  fought  and  won  by  the 
Indians  of  Tlascala  and  Chalco,  the  Spaniards  being  more  interested 
in  capturing  Indian  women  and  collecting  booty  than  in  slaying  the 
enemy,  adding  also  that  the  cruelties  of  the  Indians  were  so  shocking 
that  the  Spaniards  tried  to  save  the  enemy  from  their  own  allies. 
Bernal  Diaz  attacks  Gomara's  account  of  the  stream  being  red  with 
blood,  and  says  that,  while  some  wounded  Mexicans  did  make  their 
way  down  to  the  water,  in  seeking  to  escape,  and  it  may  have  been 
discoloured  for  the  length  of  time  required  to  say  an  "Ave  Maria, "  it 
is  untrue  that  anyone  suffered  from  thirst  on  that  account,  as  the  town 
possessed  several  fountains  of  the  finest  water. 

Third  Letter  39 

want  of  water.  Having  concluded  this,  and  leaving  the 
two  towns  in  peace,  though  well  chastised  for  their  re- 
fusal at  the  beginning,  the  alguacil  mayor  returned  to 
Tesaico  with  all  his  people,  and  Your  Catholic  Majesty 
may  believe  that  this  was  a  most  signal  victory,  where 
the  Spaniards  showed  \ery  remarkable  valour. 

When  the  people  of  Mexico  and  Temixtitan  learned 
that  the  Spaniards  and  Calcans  had  done  them  such 
damage,  they  determined  to  send  certain  captains  with  a 
large  force  against  them. 1  As  soon  as  the  Calcans  learned 
this,  they  sent  to  beseech  me  to  send  them  some  aid 
with  all  haste,  and  I  again  promptly  sent  the  alguacil 
mayor,  with  foot  soldiers  and  horsemen;  but  when  he 
arrived  the  Culuans  and  the  Calcans  had  already  met  in 
the  field  and  both  had  fought  very  stoutly.  God  was 
pleased,  however,  that  the  Calcans  should  triumph,  and 
they  killed  many  of  their  adversaries,  and  captured  some 

1  Bernal  Diaz  relates  that  Quauhtemotzin  was  so  enraged  when 
he  heard  of  the  defection  of  the  Chalcans  and  of  the  hostilities  against 
him,  in  which  they  had  taken  part  with  the  Spaniards,  that  he  de- 
spatched a  force  of  twenty  thousand  warriors  against  them,  which 
was  transported  across  the  lake  in  two  thousand  canoes.  Sandoval 
had  barely  got  back  to  Texcoco  and  had  not  even  had  time  to  make 
his  report  to  the  commander,  when  an  express  arrived  from  Chalco 
with  the  news  that  things  were  in  a  worse  state  than  ever.  Cortes, 
hastily  assuming  that  Sandoval  had  returned  too  soon,  leaving  his 
mission  only  half  accomplished,  fell  into  a  rage,  and  ordered  Sandoval's 
instant  return  to  Chalco,  without  hearing  a  word  of  what  he  had  to  say 
in  explanation.  Sandoval  was  so  much  hurt  at  this  injustice  that 
on  his  second  return  to  Texcoco  bringing  the  prisoners,  he  would  have 
nothing  to  say  to  Cortes  in  spite  of  the  latter's  apologies  and  protests. 
The  two  men  did  afterwards  make  up  this  quarrel,  and  became  as 
good  friends  as  ever.  There  was  also  much  grumbling  over  the  par- 
tition of  the  slaves;  first  His  Majesty's  fifth  was  deducted,  then  the 
fifth  belonging  to  Cortes,  then  the  officers  took  their  shares,  so  that 
by  the  time  it  came  to  allotting  any  to  the  soldiers  there  was  not  much 
of  any  value  left.  Bernal  Diaz  says  that  those  who  were  in  favour 
with  Cortes,  bought  their  slaves  privately  and  had  them  branded, 
paying  the  price  to  him:  many  slaves  also  escaped  or  disappeared,  but 
the  soldiers  were  credited  with  their  value,  which  was  charged  against 
them  in  the  division  of  the  spoils. 

40  Letters  of  Cortes 

forty  of  them,  amongst  whom  was  a  Mexican  captain 
and  two  other  chiefs  whom  the  Calcans  delivered  to  the 
alguacil  mayor  to  be  brought  to  me.  He  sent  me  some 
of  them  and  others  he  kept  because,  for  the  greater  se- 
curity of  the  Calcans  he,  with  all  the  people,  remained 
in  one  of  their  towns  on  the  frontier  of  Mexico.  Later, 
when  there  seemed  to  him  no  further  need  for  his  re- 
maining, he  returned  to  Tesaico  and  brought  with  him 
the  other  prisoners  who  had  remained  in  his  hands. 
Meanwhile  we  had  many  other  encounters  and  skirmishes 
with  the  natives  of  Culua,  which  to  avoid  prolixity  I  do 
not  specify. 

As  the  road  between  Vera  Cruz  and  this  city  of  Tesaico 
was  safe  for  travelling  to  and  fro,  the  people  of  that  city 
Reinforce-  ^a(^  news  °f  us  every  day  and  we  of  them, 
ments  which  before  was  not  possible.  They  sent  me 
Arrive  at  by  a  messenger  some  crossbows  and  muskets 
era  ruz  an(^  pOW(jer  which  pleased  us  greatly;  and 
two  days  after,  they  sent  me  another  messenger  by 
whom  they  made  known  that  three  ships1  had  arrived 
at  the  port  bringing  many  people  and  horses,  whom 
they  would  immediately  send  on  to  me, — aid  which 
God  miraculously  sent  us  in  proportion  to  our  need. 

I  have  always  sought,  Most  Powerful  Lord,  to  win  the 
people  of  Temixtitan  to  our  friendship  by  every  way  and 
means  I  could;  on  the  one  hand  because  I  did  not  wish 
them  to  provoke  their  own  destruction,  and  on  the  other 
in  order  to  rest  from  the  hardships  of  all  the  past  wars; 
but  principally  because  I  knew  it  would  conduce  to  Your 
Majesty's  service.  Whenever  I  could  lay  hold  of  anyone 
from  the  city,  I  would  send  him  back  to  it,  admonishing 
and  requiring  the  inhabitants  to  come  to  terms  of  peace. 

1  Bernal  Diaz  speaks  of  but  one  ship,  on  board  which  came 
Julian  de  Alderete,  royal  treasurer;  also  Fray  Pedro  Melgarejo  de 
Urrea,  a  Franciscan,  of  whom  further  mention  will  be  made,  and 
many  others.  The  welcome  news  was  brought  that  Juan  de  Fonseca, 
the  Bishop  of  Burgos,  was  out  of  favour  with  the  Emperor. 

Third  Letter  41 

On  Holy  Wednesday,  which  was  the  twenty-seventh 
of  March  of  the  year  1521,  I  had  brought  before  me  those 
chiefs  of  Temixtitan  who  had  been  taken  by  the  Calcans. 
I  asked  if  any  of  them  would  go  to  the  city  and 
speak  on  my  part  to  the  lords  of  it,  and  ask  them  to  stop 
fighting  and  give  themselves  as  vassals  of  Your  Majesty 
as  they  had  before  done;  for  I  did  not  wish  to  destroy 
them  but  to  be  their  friends.  Although  they  took  it 
badly,  fearing  they  would  be  killed  for  bringing  that 
message,  two  of  the  prisoners  determined  to  go,  and 
asked  me  for  a  letter,  for,  though  they  did  not  understand 
what  was  in  it,  they  knew  that  amongst  us  it  was  cus- 
tomary, and  that  by  taking  it  the  people  of  the  city 
would  give  them  credence.  I  explained  also  through 
the  interpreters  what  I  wrote  in  the  letter,  which  was 
what  I  had  told  them.  So  they  left,  and  I  ordered  five 
horsemen  to  accompany  them  till  they  were  in  safety. 

On  Holy  Saturday,  the  Calcans  and  some  of  their  allies 
and  friends  sent  to  tell  me  that  the  Mexicans  were  march- 
ing against  them,  and  they  showed  me  on  a  large  white 
cloth  a  drawing  of  all  the  towns  which  were  to  march, 
and  the  roads  by  which  they  were  coming;  and  they  be- 
sought me  at  all  costs  to  send  them  help.  I  answered 
them  that  within  four  or  five  days  I  would  send  it,  but  if 
meanwhile  they  found  themselves  in  straits  they  should 
let  me  know  and  I  would  aid  them.  On  the  third  day 
of  the  Feast  of  the  Resurrection,  they  came  back  to  beg 
me  to  send  help  as  quickly  as  possible  as  the  enemy  was 
advancing  steadily.  I  told  them  I  would  and  announced 
that  for  the  following  Friday  twenty-five  horsemen  and 
three  hundred  foot-soldiers  should  be  ready. 

The  Thursday  before,  certain  messengers  came  to 
Tesaico  from  the  provinces  of  Tazapan,  Mascalcingo, 
and  Nautan,  *  and  from  other  cities  in  their  neighbour- 
hood, telling  me  that  they  came  to  give  themselves  as 

1  Tozopan,  Mexicalzingo,  and  Nautlan. 

42  Letters  of  Cortes 

vassals  of  Your  Majesty  and  to  be  our  friends,  as  they 
had  never  killed  any  Spaniards  nor  rebelled  against 
Your  Majesty's  service.  They  brought  me  certain  pieces 
of  cotton  cloth  for  which  I  thanked  them,  and  promised 
them  that  if  they  were  good,  they  would  receive  good 
treatment;  so  they  went  away  very  well  content. 

The  Friday  following,  which  was  the  fifth  of  April 
of  the  said  year  152 1,  I  left  this  city  of  Tesaico,  with  the 
Cortes  thirty  horsemen  and  three  hundred  footmen 
Takes  who  had  been  equipped,  leaving  in  it  twenty 

the  Field  other  horsemen  and  three  hundred  footmen 
under  the  command  of  Gonzalo  de  Sandoval,  the  al- 
guacil  mayor.  More  than  twenty  thousand  men  of 
Tesaico  went  with  me,  and  we  marched  in  good 
order  and  slept  in  a  town  in  Calco,  called  Talman- 
alco, *  where  we  were  well  received  and  quartered. 
Since  the  Calcans  became  our  friends,  they  have  kept 
a  strong  fort  and  garrison  there,  for  it  is  on  the  Culuan 
frontier.  We  arrived  at  Calco  the  next  day  at  nine 
o'clock  but  did  not  stop,  except  to  tell  the  chiefs  of  my 
intention  to  make  a  tour  round  the  lakes,  as  I  believed 
that  after  accomplishing  this  march,  which  was  important, 
the  thirteen  brigantines  would  be  found  complete  and 
ready  to  be  launched.  After  speaking  to  the  Calcans,  I 
left  at  vespers  that  day,  and  reached  one  of  their  towns 
where  more  than  forty  thousand  friendly  warriors  joined 
us,  and  there  we  slept  that  night.  As  the  natives  of  the 
town  told  me  that  the  Culuans  were  expecting  me  in 
the  field,  I  ordered  that  at  a  quarter  before  daybreak 
everybody  should  be  on  foot  and  ready. 

After  hearing  mass,  we  began  our  march,  I  taking  the 
vanguard  with  twenty  horsemen,  and  leaving  ten  for 
the  rear-guard;  and  in  this  order  we  crossed  some  very 
steep  sierras.  At  two  o'clock  in  the  afternoon,  we  arrived 
at  a  very  steep  hillock  on  the  top  of  which  there  were 

1  Tlamanalco:  a  little  more  than  one  league  from  Chalco. 

Third  Letter  43 

many  women  and  children,  while  its  slopes  were  covered 
with  warriors  who  at  once  began  yelling  loudly,  sending 
up  smoke  signals,  discharging  their  slings,  and  throwing 
stones  and  darts,  so  that  in  approaching  them  we  sus- 
tained much  injury.  Although  we  saw  they  did  not  dare 
to  wait  for  us  on  the  field,  it  appeared  to  me  that,  even 
though  our  road  led  us  elsewhere,  it  was  cowardly  to  go 
on  without  giving  them  a  lesson,  lest  also  our  friends 
should  suspect  we  did  it  out  of  cowardice;  and  I  began, 
therefore,  to  reconnoitre  about  the  hillock.  It  was 
about  a  league  in  circumference  and  certainly  was  so 
strong  that  it  seemed  madness  to  assail  it;  but  although 
I  might  have  laid  siege  to  it  and  obliged  them  to  give 
themselves  up  from  sheer  want,  I  could  not  spare  the 
time  to  do  this.  Being  thus  perplexed,  I  determined 
to  assault  its  slopes  at  the  places  I  had  examined,  and 
gave  orders  to  Cristobal  Corral,  lieutenant  of  sixty 
foot  soldiers  whom  I  had  always  in  my  company,  to 
attack  them  with  his  infantry  and  ascend  its  steepest 
sides  with  certain  musketeers  and  archers  to  follow 
him;  and  to  Rodriguez  de  Villafuerte  and  to  Francisco 
Verdugo  that  the>  with  their  men  and  certain  archers 
and  musketeers  should  mount  on  another  side ;  and  to  the 
captains  Pedro  Dircio  and  Andres  de  Monjaraz  to  assault 
it  from  another  side  with  some  few  archers  and  musketeers ; 
and  that  upon  hearing  a  musket -shot  all  should  resolve 
to  mount,  winning  either  victory  or  death. 

Immediately  on  the  discharge  of  the  musket,  they  began 
the  ascent,  and  won  two  slopes  of  the  hillock  from  the 
adversaries,  but  were  unable  to  get  any  higher  because, 
such  were  the  steepness  and  ruggedness  of  the  rock  that 
they  could  not  sustain  themselves  neither  with  feet  nor 
hands.  The  Indians  with  their  hands  hurled  many 
rocks  from  above,  and  these  in  rolling  broke  into  pieces 
which  scattered,  doing  infinite  damage;  and  the  attack 
of  our  enemies  was  so  fierce  that  they  killed  two  Span- 

44  Letters  of  Cortes 

iards  and  wounded  more  than  twenty,  stopping  our 
advance.  Seeing  that  it  was  impossible  to  do  more,  and 
that  such  great  numbers  of  foes  were  gathering  to  help 
those  on  the  hillock  that  the  country  was  covered  with 
them,  I  ordered  the  captains  to  retreat;  and,  having 
descended,  the  horsemen  charged  those  on  the  plain  and 
drove  them  from  the  field,  killing  them  with  their  lances 
during  a  pursuit  which  lasted  for  an  hour  and  a  half. 

The  people  being  many,  the  horsemen  scattered  from 
one  part  to  another,  and  after  having  again  assembled 
some  told  me  that  about  a  league  further  on  they  had 
seen  another  hillock  with  many  people  on  it,  but  that  it 
was  not  so  strong;  that  on  the  plains  near  it  were  many 
people;  and  that  there  were  to  be  found  there  two  things 
which  we  did  not  find  on  this  other,  one  was  water  and  the 
other  less  strength  in  the  position,  so  we  might  without 
danger  capture  the  people.  Although  I  much  regretted 
not  having  obtained  the  victory,  we  left  and  slept  that 
night  near  the  other  hillock,  where  we  endured  much 
hardship  and  privation;  neither  did  we  find  any  water, 
nor  all  that  day  had  we  or  the  horses  drunk  any ;  thus 
we  passed  that  night  hearing  a  great  noise  of  kettle- 
drums, trumpets,  and  yells  from  our  enemies. 

As  soon  as  day  dawned,  certain  captains  and  myself 
began  to  examine  the  hill,  which  seemed  to  us  almost  as 
strong  as  the  other;  but  it  had  two  high  points  on  its  sum- 
mit which  were  easier  to  mount  and  which  were  defended 
by  many  warriors.  My  captains  and  I  with  other 
hidalgos  who  were  there  took  our  shields  and  went  on 
foot  towards  it  (for  the  horses  had  been  taken  to  be 
watered  about  a  league  off) ,  only  for  the  purpose  of  seeing 
its  strength  and  where  it  might  be  attacked ;  when  the 
people  saw  us,  although  we  said  nothing  to  them,  they 
followed  us.  When  we  reached  the  foot  of  the 
hillock,  the  men  on  the  peaks,  believing  I  intended  to 
attack  those  in  the  centre,  abandoned  their  positions  to 

Third  Letter  45 

come  to  their  help.  Seeing  this  blunder,  and  that  by  taking 
the  peaks  they  would  be  at  a  great  disadvantage,  I  very 
quietly  ordered  a  captain  to  mount  quickly  with  his 
people  and  capture  the  steepest  points  which  they  had 
abandoned;  and  he  succeeded.  I,  with  the  rest  of  my 
force,  began  to  mount  the  hillock  where  most  of  the 
enemy  was  gathered;  and  it  pleased  God  that  I  should 
capture  the  slope  and  that  we  should  reach  a  height  almost 
equal  to  that  whence  they  fought,  which  result  had  ap- 
peared almost  impossible  without  infinite  danger.  One 
of  the  captains  had  already  planted  his  banner  on  the 
highest  point,  and  from  there  he  began  to  discharge 
muskets  and  cross-bows  at  the  enemy,  and  they,  seeing 
the  injury  they  sustained,  and  that  the  battle  was  lost, 
made  signs  of  surrender,  laying  down  their  arms.  As 
my  policy  is  always  to  convince  these  people  that  I  do 
not  wish  to  injure  them,  no  matter  how  blameworthy 
they  may  be,  especially  when  they  are  willing  to  become 
vassals  of  Your  Majesty;  and  as  they  are  intelligent  and 
understand  this  very  well,  I  ordered  the  fighting  to  cease, 
and  when  they  came  to  speak  to  me  I  received  them  very 
well.  Observing  how  well  they  were  treated,  they 
made  this  known  to  those  on  the  other  hillock,  who 
although  they  were  victorious,  decided  to  give  themselves 
as  vassals  to  Your  Majesty,  and  came  to  me  asking  pardon 
for  the  past. 

I  remained  two  days  in  this  town  near  the  hill,  from 
where  I  sent  the  wounded  to  Tesaico.  Starting  again, 
I  arrived  at  ten  o'clock  in  the  morning  at  Guastepeque, 
which  I  have  already  mentioned,  where  we  lodged  in  the 
chief's  house,  situated  in  the  most  refreshing  gardens 
ever  seen.  These  gardens  have  a  circuit  of  two  leagues, 
and  in  their  midst  flows  a  very  beautiful  rivulet,  and  at 
intervals  of  two  cross-bow  shots  are  kiosks  and  very 
gay  flower  beds,  and  an  infinite  number  of  different 
fruit  trees,  many  herbs,  and  fragrant  flowers;  certainly 

46  Letters  of  Cortes 

it  is  an  admirable  thing  to  see  the  charm  and  grandeur 
of  this  place.  We  reposed  that  day  here,  where  the 
natives  provided  us  all  the  pleasure  and  service  they 
could.  The  next  day  we  left,  and  at  eight  o'clock  in  the 
morning  we  arrived  at  a  great  town  called  Yautepeque, 
where  many  hostile  warriors  were  awaiting  us.  When 
we  first  arrived,  it  seemed  that  they  wanted  to  make 
us  some  sign  of  peace,  either  out  of  fear  or  to  deceive  us, 
but  immediately  afterward,  without  any  further  cause, 
they  fled,  abandoning  their  town.  As  I  did  not  care  to 
delay  there,  I  pursued  them  with  my  thirty  horsemen 
for  about  two  leagues  till  I  got  them  to  another  town 
called  Gilutepeque,  *  where  we  killed  many  of  them. 
We  found  the  people  in  this  town  off  their  guard,  because 
we  got  there  ahead  of  their  scouts,  so  some  were  killed, 
and  many  women  and  children  were  taken,  and  the  rest 
fled.  I  remained  there  two  days,  believing  the  chief 
would  give  himself  as  vassal  to  Your  Majesty,  but  as  he 
never  came  I  ordered  fire  to  be  set  to  the  town  when  I 
departed.  Before  I  left  it,  there  came  certain  persons  of  the 
former  town,  called  Yautepeque,  praying  me  to  pardon 
them  and  offering  to  give  themselves  as  vassals  to  Your 
Majesty.  I  received  them  willingly  because  they  had 
already  been  well  chastised. 

On  the  same  day  I  left,  I  came  at  nine  o'clock  in  the 
morning  within  sight  of  a  well-fortified  town,  called 
Coadnabaced,2  within  which  was  a  large  force  Capture  of 
of  warriors.  The  town  was  so  strong,  and  Cuernavaca 
surrounded  by  so  many  hills  and  ravines  some 
sixty  feet  in  depth,  that   no   horseman   could  enter  it 

*  Xiuhtepec. 

2  Cuauhnahuac :  the  present  Cuernavaca.  This  town,  the  an- 
cient capital  of  the  Tlahuica  tribes,  situated  on  an  isolated  sort 
of  promontory  at  an  elevation  of  over  five  thousand  feet,  and  sur- 
rounded, save  on  one  side,  by  a  narrow  but  profound  canon  which  was 
impassable,  was  defended  by  a  strong  garrison  under  Coatzin,  its  lord. 
The  feat  of  the  Tlascalan,  to  which  Cortes  does  scanty  justice,  was 

Third  Letter  47 

except  by  two  ways,  which  were  then  unknown  to 
us;  and  even  to  reach  them  we  would  have  been 
obliged  to  make  a  circuit  of  about  a  league  and  a 
half.  An  entrance  also  could  be  effected  by  wooden 
bridges  had  they  not  removed  them.  The  place  was  so 
secure  and  protected,  that  even  had  we  been  ten  times 
as  many  they  could  have  held  it  notwithstanding.  Upon 
our  approach,  they  discharged  many  darts,  arrows,  and 
stones  at  us;  but  while  they  were  skirmishing  with  us  in 
this  manner,  an  Indian  of  Tascaltecal  crossed  unobserved 
by  a  very  dangerous  pass,  and  when  the  enemy  suddenly 
saw  him  they  believed  the  Spaniards  were  entering  the 
same  way,  and  thus  in  a  panic  they  fled  with  the  Indian 
behind  them.  Three  or  four  lads,  servants  of  mine, 
and  two  from  another  company,  when  they  saw  the 
Indian  cross,  followed  him,  and  also  reached  the  other 
side.     I  led  the  horsemen  along  the  sierra  to  find  an 

indeed  remarkable,  and  is  described  by  Bernal  Diaz,  who  claims  also 
to  have  followed  on  the  heels  of  the  intrepid  warrior.  Two  immense 
trees  growing  on  opposite  sides  of  the  ravine,  inclined  towards  one 
another  until  their  branches  met;  seeing  this  the  bold  Tlascalan  con- 
ceived the  plan  of  crossing  by  this  aerial  bridge,  and,  with  an  agility 
worthy  of  his  conception,  he  safely  passed  on  the  swaying  boughs  over 
the  dizzy  height,  and  slid  down  the  tree  trunk  on  the  other  side,  while 
the  garrison  of  Cuernavaca  were  fighting  elsewhere,  and  unobservant 
of  his  achievement.  About  thirty  Spaniards  and  a  number  of  Tlas- 
calans  followed  his  example,  three  of  whom  lost  their  balance  and 
fell  into  the  stream  below.  Bernal  Diaz  says  that  it  was  a  frightful 
undertaking,  and  that  he  himself  became  quite  blind  and  giddy  from 
the  great  height  and  danger.  Indeed  it  was  no  small  thing  for  a  man, 
weighted  with  arms  and  armour,  to  essay  such  a  feat,  and  if  the  credit 
of  the  invention  belongs  to  the  Tlascalan,  we  cannot  withhold  our  admir- 
ation from  the  thirty  Spaniards  who  had  the  hardihood  to  follow  him. 
Cuernavaca  is  the  present  capital  of  the  State  of  Morelos,  and  is  one 
of  the  most  beautiful  and  interesting  towns  in  Mexico,  while  its  situa- 
tion is  hardly  excelled  in  picturesqueness  and  grandeur  by  any  other 
in  the  world.  The  palace,  which  Cortes  afterwards  built  there,  still 
stands,  and  a  charming  villa,  with  luxuriant  gardens  overhanging 
the  great  barranca  which  was  built  by  a  Spaniard,  Laborda,  in  the 
XVIIIth  century,  became  a  favourite  resort  of  the  unfortunate  Em- 
peror Maximilian  during  his  brief  and  luckless  reign. 

48  Letters  of  Cortes 

entrance  to  the  town,  while  the  enemy  incessantly  dis- 
charged darts  and  arrows  at  us ;  for  between  them  and  us 
there  was  only  a  narrow  ravine.  While  they  were  occu- 
pied in  righting  with  us,  they  had  not  seen  the  five 
Spaniards,  so  our  men  took  them  suddenly  from  behind, 
stabbing  and  slashing  at  them,  taking  them  completely 
by  surprise,  for  they  did  not  know  that  their  own  people 
had  abandoned  the  pass  by  which  the  Spaniards  and  the 
Indians  had  crossed;  so  they  became  so  frightened  that 
they  lost  courage  to  fight,  and  the  Spaniards  killed  them, 
till,  perceiving  how  they  had  been  tricked,  they  began  to 
fly.  Our  foot  soldiers  were  already  in  the  town,  and  began 
to  set  fire  to  it  while  the  enemy  abandoned  it ;  and  thus 
escaping  the  latter  reached  the  sierra  although  many  of 
them  perished,  for  the  horsemen  pursued  and  killed 

After  we  discovered  how  to  enter  the  town,  which  was 
about  mid-day,  we  lodged  ourselves  in  some  houses  in  a 
garden,  though  we  found  the  place  almost  all  burnt.  It 
was  quite  late  when  the  chief  and  other  notables,  seeing 
they  could  not  defend  themselves  in  spite  of  their  strong 
town,  and  fearing  we  might  pursue  and  kill  them  in  the 
hilly  ground,  decided  to  come  and  offer  themselves  as 
vassals  of  Your  Majesty;  I  received  them  as  such,  and 
they  promised  that  henceforth  they  would  always  be 
our  friends.  These  Indians  and  the  others  who  came 
to  give  themselves  as  vassals  of  Your  Majesty,  after  we 
had  burnt  and  destroyed  their  houses  and  property, 
told  us  that  the  reason  they  were  so  tardy  in  seeking  our 
friendship  was  because  they  thought  that  they  would 
make  good  their  fault  by  first  allowing  us  to  injure  them, 
believing  that  this  done  we  would  not  afterwards  be  so 
angry  with  them.  We  slept  that  night  in  the  town,  and 
the  next  morning  marched  through  deserted  and  waterless 
pine  forests,  passing  through  a  defile,  suffering  much 
from  fatigue  and  want  of  water,  so  that  some  Indians  who 

Third  Letter  49 

accompanied  us  perished  from  thirst.  We  stopped  that 
night  at  some  farms,  seven  leagues  from  the  town. 

At  daybreak  we  resumed  our  march  and  came  in  sight 
of  a  large  city,  called  Suchimilco, *  which  is  built  on  the 
fresh-water  lake.  As  the  Indians  were  notified  of  our 
coming,  they  had  digged  many  ditches  and  canals  and 
removed  the  bridges  at  all  the  entrances  to  the  town, 
which  is  three  or  four  leagues  from  Temixtitan.  Within, 
there  were  many  brave-looking  people  determined  to 
defend  themselves  to  the  death.  As  soon  as  we  arrived 
there  and  had  collected  all  our  people,  disposing  them 
in  good  order  and  discipline,  I  dismounted  and  advanced 
with  certain  foot  soldiers  towards  a  ditch  which  had  been 
made,  and  on  the  other  side  of  which  were  infinite  war- 
riors. When  the  fighting  began  at  the  ditch,  the 
archers  and  musketeers  did  them  much  damage,  so  they 
abandoned  it  and  the  Spaniards  threw  themselves  into 
the  water  and  passed  over  to  dry  land.  After  half  an 
hour's  fighting,  we  captured  the  greater  part  of  the  city, 
and  the  defenders  retired  in  their  canoes  on  the  water- 
ways. They  fought  until  nightfall,  when  some  of  them 
sued  for  peace,  but  others  continued  fighting;  and  so 
many  times  did  they  make  overtures  without  fulfilling 
them,  that  finally  we  discovered  they  did  this  from  two 
motives,  first  that  they  might  carry  off  their  property 
while  we  were  discussing  peace,  and  secondly  to  gain 
time  until  help  should  reach  them  from  Mexico  and 
Temixtitan.  They  killed  two  Spaniards  who  had  got 
separated  from  the  others  to  plunder  and  found  them- 
selves in  their  extremity  beyond  reach  of  assistance. 

In  the  evening,  the  enemy  was  debating  how  to  manage 
that  we  should  not  escape  alive  from  their  city,  and  a 
great  number  decided  to  attack  us  where  we  had  entered ; 
on  seeing   them  advance  so  rapidly  we  were   surprised 

»  The  name  Xochimilco  signifies  "field  of  flowers":  the  town  was 
situated  on  the  left  bank  of  the  lake  of  the  same  name. 

5°  Letters  of  Cortes 

to  observe  their  strategy  and  agility.  Six  horsemen 
and  myself,  who  were  readier  than  the  others  charged 
Narrow  amongst  them  and  frightened  by  the  horses 
Escape  of  they  fled,  we  following  them  through  the 
Cortes  city,  killing  many,  though  we  found  ourselves 
in  a  great  conflict  because  they  were  so  daring  that 
many  of  them  ventured  to  face  the  horsemen  with 
their  swords  and  shields.  While  we  were  pell-mell 
amongst  them  and  in  a  great  confusion,  the  horse  I  rode 
fell  through  sheer  fatigue,  and  as  some  of  the  adversaries 
saw  me  on  foot  they  rushed  upon  me.  While  I  defended 
myself  against  them  with  my  lance,  an  Indian  of  Tas- 
caltecal, 1  when  he  saw  me  in  danger,  rushed  to  help 

*  Cortes  searched  in  vain  for  this  Indian  who  saved  his  life,  but, 
as  he  could  never  be  found  dead  or  alive,  he  finally  declared  that  he 
was  persuaded  that  it  was  not  an  Indian  but  his  holy  patron  St.  Peter 
who  had  rescued  him.  Clavigero  pertinently  notes  that,  in  this  battle 
as  in  many  others,  the  Indians  might  easily  have  killed  Cortes  had 
they  not  determined  to  take  him  alive  and  sacrifice  him.  Bernal 
Diaz  attributes  the  rescue  of  Cortes  to  a  Castilian  soldier,  Cristobal 
de  Olea,  who  led  a  body  of  Tlascalans  to  his  relief,  but  makes  no  men- 
tion of  any  one  particular  Tlascalan.  Cortes  may,  however,  be  sup- 
posed to  know  better,  and  he  refers  to  Olea  as  "a  servant  of  mine  who 
helped  raise  the  horse. "  Olea  received  three  frightful  wounds  from 
the  deadly  maquahuitl,  a  weapon  which  the  Mexicans  wielded  with 
great  address. 

The  fighting  in  and  around  Xochimilco  lasted  from  the  1 5th  of  April 
until  the  morning  of  Friday  the  20th,  when  the  Spaniards  arrived 
in  Tlacopan  (Tacuba),  and,  though  Cortes  says  little  about  the  events 
of  those  days,  his  men  suffered  considerably.  While  a  small  division 
was  engaged  in  pillaging  some  storehouses  near  Xochimilco,  the 
Mexicans  attacked  them;  wounding  a  number  and  taking  Juan  de 
Lara,  Alonso  Hernandez,  and  two  other  soldiers  of  Andres  de  Mon- 
jaraz's  company  prisoners.  These  men  were  carried  in  triumph  to 
Temixtitan  where,  after  being  questioned  by  Quauhtemotzin,  they 
were  sacrificed  and  their  arms  and  legs  taken  to  be  exhibited  in  the 
neighbouring  provinces  as  a  forecast  of  the  fate  awaiting  the  remainder 
of  the  white  men  (Bernal  Diaz,  cap.  cxlv.). 

Cortes  wished  to  leave  behind  the  spoils  taken  at  Xochimilco  rather 
than  be  cumbered  with  them,  but  yielded  to  the  clamours  of  his  men, 
who  declared  they  were  able  to  defend  what  they  had  taken.  The 
arrival  in  Tlacopan  was  marked,  as  Cortes  relates,  by  the  capture  of 
two  more  Spaniards,  Francisco  Martin  Vendabal  and  Pedro  Gallego, 

Third  Letter  51 

me,  and  he  and  a  servant  of  mine  who  joined  him  helped 
me  to  raise  the  horse.  In  the  midst  of  this,  the  Span- 
iards came  up,  and  the  enemy  all  deserted  the  field, 
and  I  with  the  other  horsemen  returned  to  the  city, 
for  we  were  very  weary.  Although  it  was  almost 
night  and  time  for  rest,  I  commanded  that  all  the 
raised  bridges  over  the  water  should  be  filled  up  with 
stones  and  adobes,  so  that  the  horses  could  go  and  come 
from  the  city  without  obstacle;  nor  did  I  leave  there  till 
all  those  difficult  crossings  had  been  repaired.  We 
passed  that  night  using  great  vigilance  and  giving  close 
attention  to  the  watches. 

The  next  day,  all  the  natives  of  Mexico  and  Temixtitan 
who  already  knew  we  were  in  Suchimilco  planned  an 
attack  with  great  force  by  water  and  land,  so  as  to  sur- 
round us;  for  they  believed  we  could  not  again  escape 

and  the  commander,  on  this  occasion,  made  a  rare  display  of  feeling 
which  led  to  the  composition  of  a  romance  or  ballad,  long  in  popular 
vogue — 

"En  Tacuba  esta  Cortes 
Con  su  escuadron  esforzado, 
Triste  estaba  y  muy  penoso, 
Triste  y  con  gran  cuidado, 
La  una  mano  en  la  me j  ilia 
Y  la  otra  en  el  costado,"  etc. 

Standing  on  a  lofty  teocalli,  a  group  of  the  leaders,  including  Julian 
de  Alderete  and  Fray  Pedro  Melgarejo,  surveyed  the  country,  with 
the  great  capital  floating  on  the  waters  of  its  lake,  and  one  Alonzo 
Perez,  noting  the  pensive  sadness  of  the  commander's  mien,  begged 
him  not  to  feel  dejected,  for  losses  and  destruction  were  incident  to 
warfare,  but  that  of  him  it  could  never  be  said  that  like  Nero  he  had 
watched  the  burning  city,  quoting  the  couplet — 

"Mira  Nero  de  Tarpeya 
A  Roma  come  de  ardia.  " 

Cortes  answered,  calling  him  to  witness  how  often  he  had  begged 
the  Mexicans  to  make  peace  and  save  themselves,  adding  that  his 
sadness  was  not  for  any  one  cause  alone,  but  from  thinking  of  all  the 
hardships  still  to  be  endured  in  reconquering  the  city,  which  with 
God's  help  they  must  now  undertake. 

52  Letters  of  Cortes 

from  their  hands.  I  mounted  one  of  the  towers  of  their 
idols  to  see  how  they  would  approach  and  where  they 
would  attack  us,  that  I  might  give  all  necessary  orders. 
After  I  had  completed  our  preparations,  there  appeared 
on  the  water  a  large  fleet  of  canoes  which  I  believe  ex- 
ceeded two  thousand ;  and  in  them  there  came  more  than 
twelve  thousand  warriors,  in  addition  to  whom  there 
arrived  such  a  multitude  of  people  by  land  that  they 
covered  the  whole  country.  Their  captains  came  at 
their  head,  carrying  our  captured  swords  in  their  hands, 
and  naming  their  provinces,  crying,  "Mexico!  Mexico! 
Temixiitan!  Temixtitan!"  and  shouting  insults  at  us,  and 
threatening  to  kill  us  with  the  swords  they  had  taken 
from  us  before  in  the  city  of  Temixtitan.  After  I  had 
settled  where  each  captain  was  to  be  placed,  and  as  on 
the  mainland  there  was  a  great  multitude  of  the  enemy, 
I  advanced  to  attack  them  with  twenty  horsemen,  and 
five  hundred  men  of  Tascaltecal  divided  into  three  com- 
panies. I  ordered  them,  as  soon  as  they  had  scattered 
the  enemy,  to  collect  at  the  foot  of  a  hill  about  a  half 
a  league  from  there,  where  many  of  the  foe  had  also 
assembled.  When  we  separated,  each  division  pursued 
the  enemy  on  its  respective  side,  and,  after  having  routed 
them  and  killed  many  with  our  swords,  we  retired  to  the 
foot  of  the  hill ;  there  I  ordered  certain  foot  soldiers,  my 
servants,  who  had  served  me  and  were  very  agile,  to  try 
to  mount  the  steepest  part  of  the  hill.  I  with  the  horse- 
men would  then  circle  round  behind,  where  it  was  more 
level,  and  we  would  take  them  in  the  middle.  Thus  it 
happened  that,  when  the  enemy  saw  the  Spaniards 
climbing  the  hill,  they  turned,  believing  they  could  re- 
treat at  their  ease,  but  instead  they  encountered  us, 
who  were  about  fifteen  horsemen ;  and  we  fell  upon  them, 
as  did  likewise  the  warriors  of  Tascaltecal,  so  that  in  a 
very  short  time  more  than  five  hundred  of  them  perished, 
and  all  the  others  escaped  and  fled  towards  the  mountains. 

Third  Letter  53 

Six  other  horsemen  planned  to  go  up  a  very  broad  and 
level  road,  using  their  lances  on  the  enemy.  Half  a 
league  from  Suchimilco  they  came  upon  a  squadron  of 
very  dashing  troops  coming  to  help  their  countrymen, 
and  routed  them,  killing  some  with  their  lances.  When 
all  the  horsemen  had  assembled,  we  returned  about  ten 
o'clock  to  Suchimilco,  finding  at  the  entrance  many 
Spaniards  awaiting  our  return  to  know  what  had  hap- 
pened to  us;  and  they  told  me  they  had  been  in  great 
straits  and  had  done  their  utmost  to  drive  out  the  enemy, 
of  whom  a  great  number  had  perished.  They  gave  me 
two  of  our  swords  they  had  retaken  from  them,  and  told 
me  that  the  bowmen  were  out  of  arrows  and  could  get 
no  more.  While  hearing  this,  before  we  dismounted,  a 
great  body  of  the  enemy  appeared  on  a  very  broad 
causeway,  yelling  wildly,  and  promptly  we  fell  upon 
them,  driving  them  into  the  water  which  bordered  the 
causeway  on  each  side ;  thus  we  routed  them,  and,  col- 
lecting our  people,  we  returned  very  tired  to  the  city, 
which  I  burned  entirely  except  for  the  part  where  we 
lodged.  Thus  we  stopped  in  the  city  three  days,  in- 
cessantly fighting,  and  finally  we  left  having  burnt  and 
razed  it  to  the  ground.  Certainly  it  was  a  sight  worth 
beholding,  as  it  had  many  towers  of  their  idols  built  of 
stone  and  mortar;  but,  in  order  not  to  enlarge,  I  do  not 
specify  many  other  notable  things  concerning  the  city. 
The  day  I  left,  I  went  out  to  a  square,  which  is  on  the 
mainland  adjoining  the  city,  where  the  natives  held 
their  markets,  and  I  gave  orders  to  ten  horsemen  to  go 
ahead,  and  to  another  ten  to  march  in  the  middle  with 
the  foot  soldiers,  while  I  took  another  ten  in  the  rear; 
and  when  the  people  of  Suchimilco  saw  us  leaving,  be- 
lieving it  was  from  fear  of  them,  they  attacked  our  rear, 
setting  up  fierce  yells.  Thereupon  the  ten  horsemen 
and  I  returned  and  fell  on  them,  pursuing  them  till  we 
drove  them  into  the  water;  after  which  they  did  not 

54  Letters  of  Cortes 

bother  us  any  more,  and  we  continued  our  march.  At 
ten  o'clock  in  the  morning  we  arrived  in  the  city  of 
Cuyoacan  two  leagues  from  Suchimilco,  as  well  as  from 
the  cities  of  Temixtitan,  Culuacan,  Uchilubuzco, i 
Iztapalapa,  Cuitaguaca,  and  Mizqueque,  all  of  which  are 
situated  on  the  water,  the  furthest  being  about  a  league 
and  a  half  distant.  We  found  it  deserted,  and  lodged 
in  the  house  of  the  chief,  where  we  remained  two  days. 

Since  I  was  to  lay  siege  to  the  great  city  of  Temixtitan 
as  soon  as  the  brigantines  were  finished,  I  wished  first 
to  see  the  port  of  the  city  and  the  entrances  and  exits, 
and  where  the  Spaniards  might  attack  or  be  attacked. 
The  day  after  we  arrived,  therefore,  I  took  five  horsemen 
and  two  hundred  foot  soldiers  and  went,  by  a  causeway 
leading  into  the  city  of  Temixtitan,  to  the  lake  which 
was  very  near,  where  we  saw  an  infinite  number  of  canoes 
on  the  water  with  countless  warriors  in  them.  We  reached 
a  barricade  they  had  erected  across  the  causeway,  and  the 
foot  soldiers  began  to  attack  it;  although  it  was  very 
strong  and  a  stout  resistance  was  offered  and  ten  Span- 
iards were  wounded,  we  finally  won  it,  killing  many  of 
the  enemy,  although  the  archers  and  musketeers  ex- 
hausted their  arrows  and  powder.  From  this  place,  we 
saw  how  the  causeway  led  directly  through  the  water 
until  it  entered  the  city  of  Temixtitan,  a  full  league  and 
a  half  distant,  and  that  likewise  on  the  other,  which  goes 
to  Iztapalapa,  there  were  crowds  of  innumerable  people. 
When  I  had  considered  all  that  it  was  necessary  to  ob- 
serve, for  it  was  likely  that  a  garrison  of  horsemen  and 
foot  soldiers  would  have  to  be  established  here  in  this 
city,  I  ordered  our  people  to  retire,  and  we  returned  to 
the  town,  burning  their  houses  and  the  towers  of  their 

1  Huitzilopocho  is  the  present  Cherubusco.  Cuitaquaca  was 
Cuitlahuac  and  is  now  called  Tlahua;  the  last  town  mentioned  should 
be  Mixquic. 

Third  Letter  55 

We  departed  next  day  from  this  city  to  go  to  Tacuba, 
which  is  two  leagues  from  here,  where  we  arrived  at 
nine  o'clock  in  the  morning,  using  our  lances  Return 
in  one  place  and  another  along  the  way,  for  March  to 
the  enemy  came  from  off  the  lake  to  attack  Texcoco 
and  jeer  at  the  Indians  who  carried  our  baggage;  find- 
ing themselves  worsted,  however,  they  let  us  pro- 
ceed in  peace.  I  have  already  said  that  my  principal 
purpose  was  to  make  a  circuit  of  all  the  lakes,  in  order 
to  reconnoitre  and  inspect  the  country  better,  and  also 
to  give  help  to  our  friends,  hence  I  did  not  care  to  stop 
in  Tacuba.  The  people  of  Temixtitan,  who  were  so  near 
there  that  the  city  extends  almost  to  the  mainland  of 
Tacuba,  seeing  that  we  went  on,  recovered  much  con- 
fidence and  with  great  daring  attacked  the  centre  of  our 
baggage- train ;  but  as  the  horsemen  were  well  stationed 
and  the  ground  was  all  level  thereabouts,  we  had  great 
advantage  over  them,  without  risking  any  danger  our- 
selves. As  we  were  galloping  from  one  side  to  the  other, 
two  of  the  several  youths,  my  servants,  who  usually 
followed  me,  did  not  do  so,  but  chanced  to  go  aside  where 
they  were  captured  by  the  enemy,  who,  we  believe,  put 
them  to  a  very  cruel  death,  as  was  their  custom.  God 
knows  how  grieved  I  was  by  it,  both  because  they  were 
Christians,  and  also  because  they  were  brave  men  who 
had  served  Your  Majesty  wTell  in  this  war.  After  leaving 
this  city,  we  continued  our  march  through  other  neigh- 
bouring towns,  and  rejoined  our  people,  where  I  learned 
how  the  Indians  had  captured  those  youths.  To  avenge 
their  death,  and  because  the  enemy  followed  us  with  the 
greatest  insolence  in  the  world,  I,  with  twenty  horsemen, 
concealed  myself  behind  some  houses,  and,  as  the  Indians 
saw  the  other  ten  with  the  people  and  baggage  going 
ahead,  they  followed  them  fearlessly  by  another  very 
broad  and  level  road;  thus,  when  we  saw  that  they  had 
passed  somewhat,  I  shouted  in  the  name  of  the  Apostle 

56  Letters  of  Cortes 

Santiago  and  we  fell  upon  them  furiously.  Before  they 
could  reach  the  canals  near  there,  we  killed  more  than  a 
hundred  splendid  chiefs;  after  which  they  did  not  care 
to  follow  us  any  further.  This  day  we  slept  two  leagues 
beyond,  in  the  city  of  Coatinchan,  tired  out  and  wet,  as 
it  had  rained  a  great  deal  that  afternoon;  and  we  found 
it  deserted.  We  set  out  the  next  day,  using  our  lances 
from  time  to  time  on  some  Indians  who  came  to  yell  at 
us,  and  we  slept  at  a  town,  called  Gilotepeque,  *  finding 
it  also  deserted.  The  next  day,  we  went  at  twelve 
o'clock  to  a  city,  called  Aculman, 1  belonging  to  the 
lordship  of  the  city  of  Tesaico,  where  we  slept  that  night 
and  were  well  received  by  the  Spaniards,  who  rejoiced  at 
our  coming  as  if  it  were  their  salvation;  because  after  I 
had  left  them  they  had  heard  nothing  of  me  till  the  day 
we  arrived.  They  had  suffered  various  alarms  in  the 
city,  and  the  inhabitants  had  been  daily  saying  to  them 
that  the  men  of  Mexico  and  Temixtitan  would  fall  on 
them  while  I  was  absent.  Thus,  with  God's  help,  this 
expedition  was  concluded,  and  it  was  a  very  great  enter- 
prise in  which  Your  Majesty  received  great  service, 
for  many  reasons,  as  I  shall  hereafter  state. 

When  I  came  for  the  first  time  to  the  city  of  Temixtitan, 
Very  Powerful  and  Invincible  Lord,  I  ordered,  as  I  made 
Events  in  known  to  Your  Majesty  in  my  other  relation, 
Chinantla  that  certain  plantations  should  be  established 
for  Your  Majesty  in  two  or  three  of  the  most 
desirable  provinces.  I  sent  two  Spaniards  to  one  of 
them,  called  Chinantla,3  which  is  not  subject  to  the 
Culuans;  in  the  others,  which  were,  the  Culuans  killed 
those   who  were  at   the   plantations  when   they   made 

i  Citlatlepoc. 

2  Acolman,  where  Cortes  first  learned  that  reinforcements  had 
arrived  from  Vera  Cruz. 

3  Chinantla :  the  lance  heads  of  black  obsidian  which  are  fre- 
quently mentioned  were  chiefly  manufactured  here,  and  were  called 
by  the  same  name.      Chinantla  now  forms  part  of  the  state  of  Oaxaca. 

Third  Letter  57 

war  on  me  in  Temixtitan,  and  took  everything  they 
had,  which  was  a  very  considerable  sum  according  to  the 
estimates  of  this  country.  During  almost  a  year  I  could 
learn  nothing  about  the  Spaniards  who  settled  in  Chi- 
nantla,  nor,  while  all  those  provinces  were  in  revolt,  could 
they  hear  any  thing  from  us.  The  natives  of  Chinantla, 
being  vassals  of  Your  Majesty  and  enemies  of  the  Culuans, 
told  those  Christians  that  the  Culuans  had  made  fierce 
war  upon  us,  and,  as  they  believed  few  or  none  of  us  had 
come  out  alive,  they  would  not  allow  the  Spaniards  to 
leave  the  country;  and  thus  these  two  stayed  there.  One 
of  them,  who  was  a  youth  and  a  soldier,  they  made  their 
captain,  and  at  this  time  he  went  out  with  them  to  fight 
their  enemies,  over  whom  he  and  they  were  victorious 
most  of  the  time.  When  it  pleased  God  they  should 
afterwards  return,  and  reorganise,  and  obtain  some 
victories  over  the  enemy  who  had  routed  and  expelled 
us  from  Temixtitan,  the  people  of  Chinantla  told  those 
Christians  that  they  knew  there  were  Spaniards  in  the 
province  of  Tepeaca,  and  that,  if  they  wished  to  learn 
the  truth,  they  would  risk  sending  two  Indians  who,  al- 
though they  had  to  pass  through  much  hostile  country, 
could  travel  at  night  and  off  the  highway  till  they  reached 
Tepeaca.  The  better  man  of  the  two  Spaniards  sent  a 
letter  by  those  two  Indians,  the  tenor  of  which  was  as 
follows:  "Noble  Sirs,  I  have  written  Your  Worships 
two  or  three  letters,  but  I  do  not  know  if  they  have 
reached  you  or  not  as  they  have  had  no  answer,  so  I 
doubt  whether  this  will  obtain  one.  I  make  it  known  to 
you,  Sirs,  that  all  the  natives  of  this  country  of  Culua 
are  up  in  arms  and  have  attacked  us  many  times;  but 
always  (praise  be  to  Our  Lord  for  it)  we  have  been  vic- 
torious. We  have  also  had  daily  war  with  the  natives 
of  Tuxtepeque,  for  they  are  allies  of  Culua.  Those  who 
have  remained  in  the  service  of  Their  Highnesses  as  their 
vassals   are  seven  towns  of   Tenez;    and  Nicolas  and  I 

58  Letters  of  Cortes 

have  always  stopped  in  Chinantla,  which  is  the  capital. 
I  would  like  very  much  to  know  where  the  captain  is, 
in  order  to  write  to  him  and  make  known  what  has  hap- 
pened here.  If  perchance  you  can  write  me  where  he  is, 
and  will  send  twenty  or  thirty  Spaniards,  I  would  go 
thither  with  two  of  the  chiefs  from  here  who  wish  to  see 
and  speak  with  the  captain.  It  would  be  well  for  them 
to  come  now  because  it  is  the  harvest  time  for  Cacao,  and 
the  Culuans  hinder  it  by  making  war.  May  the  Lord 
guard  the  noble  persons  of  Your  Worships,  according 
to  your  desire.  From  Chinantla,  I  know  not  what  date 
of  the  month  of  April,  of  the  year  152 1.  At  the  service 
of  Your  Worships,  Hernando  de  Barrientos." 

When  the  two  Indians  arrived  with  this  letter  in  the 
province  of  Tepeaca,  the  captain,  whom  I  had  left  there 
with  certain  Spaniards,  sent  it  immediately  to  me  at 
Tesaico;  and  we  all  rejoiced  greatly  at  receiving  it,  be- 
cause, though  we  had  always  confided  in  the  friendship 
of  Chinantla,  sometimes  the  thought  occurred  to  us  that 
they  might  confederate  with  Culua  and  kill  the  two  Span- 
iards. I  immediately  wrote,  giving  them  an  account  of 
what  had  happened,  and  telling  them  to  have  hope,  for, 
although  they  were  surrounded  on  every  side  by  enemies, 
by  God's  pleasure,  they  would  very  soon  find  themselves 
free  and  able  to  come  and  go  in  safety. 

After  having  made  the  circuit  of  the  lakes,  during  which 
I  gathered  much  important  information  for  laying  siege 
Canal  Built  to  Temixtitan  by  land  and  water,  I  stopped 
atTexcoco  in  Tesaico,  strengthening  myself  as  best  I 
could  with  people  and  arms,  hastening  to  get  the 
brigantines  finished  and  making  a  canal  to  take  them 
to  the  lake;  which  canal  was  begun  immediately  after 
the  planks  and  joinings  of  the  brigantines  had  been 
brought,  and  extended  from  one  side  of  our  camp 
to  the  lake.  From  the  place  where  the  brigantines 
were  being  joined   there    was   quite  a  half  a  league's 

Third  Letter  59 

distance  to  the  lake.  More  than  eight  thousand  natives 
of  Acolhuacan  and  Tesaico  were  employed  daily  for 
fifty  days;  for  the  channel  of  the  canal  was  more  than 
twelve  feet  deep  and  as  many  in  width,  all  staked  and 
walled.  Thus,  the  water  which  flows  through  it  would 
by  its  own  force  carry  them  to  the  lake,  so  that  we  could 
take  the  smaller  vessels  without  danger,  and  with  little 
labour  to  the  water.  It  certainly  was  a  very  great  work, 
worthy  of  admiration. 

As  soon  as  the  brigantines  were  finished  and  put  in  the 
canal  on  the  twenty-eighth  of  April1  of  the  said  year,  I 
made  a  review  of  all  my  people  and  found  eighty- six 
horsemen,  a  hundred  and  eighteen  bowmen  and  mus- 
keteers, seven  hundred  and  odd  foot  soldiers  with  swords 
and  shields,  three  heavy  iron  guns,  fifteen  small  bronze 
field  pieces  and  ten  cwt.  of  powder.  Having  finished 
the  review,  I  charged  and  recommended  all  the  Spaniards 
to  obey  and  comply  with  the  ordinances  which  I  had 
made  respecting  the  conduct  of  the  war,  and  to  be  merry, 
and  keep  up  their  courage  inasmuch  as  they  saw  how 
Our  Lord  was  leading  us  to  victory  over  our  enemies; 
for  they  well  knew  that  when  we  entered  Tesaico  we  had 
brought  only  forty  horsemen,  but  that  God  had  helped 
us  even  more  than  we  had  thought,  for  a  ship  had  arrived 
with  horses,  men,  and  arms,  as  they  had  seen ;  and  I  said 
principally  that  the  fact  that  we  were  righting  to  promote 
the  spread  of  our  faith  and  for  the  reduction  to  Your 
Majesty's  service  of  so  many  revolted  provinces,  should 
fill  them  with  courage  and  zeal  to  conquer  or  die.  They 
all  answered,  demonstrating  a  willingness  and  desire  for 

1  The  feast  fell  upon  Sunday  April  28th,  and  was  chosen  for  the 
launching  of  the  brigantines.  All  the  Spaniards  received  the  sacra- 
ments; Fray  Olmedo  said  Mass  at  an  altar  erected  near  the  lake  and 
blessed  the  boats.  Amidst  salvos  of  artillery,  strains  of  music  from 
the  Christian  and  Indian  bands,  and  the  enthusiastic  cries  of  "Cas- 
tillo./ Tlascala/"  from  the  crowds,  the  brigantines  glided  gracefully 
into  the  lake.     A  solemn  Te  Deum  closed  the  ceremony. 

60  Letters  of  Cortes 

this;  and  we  passed  the  day  of  the  review  in  great  re- 
joicing, longing  to  see  ourselves  already  engaged  in  the 
siege  and  to  bring  this  war  to  an  end,  on  which  the  peace 
or  further  disturbance  of  these  parts  so  much  depended. 

The  next  day,  I  sent  messengers  to  the  provinces  of 
Tascaltecal,  Guajucingo,  and  Churultecal,  to  let  them 
know  that  the  brigantines  were  ready,  and  that  I  and 
all  my  people  were  about  to  surround  the  great  city  of 
Temixtitan.  Therefore  I  begged  them,  since  they  were 
notified  by  me  and  had  already  prepared  their  people, 
that  as  many  of  them  as  possible  and  as  well  armed  as 
they  could  be,  should  set  out  and  join  me  here  in  Tesaico, 
where  I  would  wait  ten  days  for  them,  and  that  they 
should  by  no  means  exceed  that  time,  because  it  would 
disarrange  everything  that  had  been  planned.  When 
the  messengers  arrived,  the  people  of  those  provinces 
were  already  prepared  and  eager  to  meet  the  Culuans: 
those  from  Guajucingo  and  Churultecal  came  to  Calco 
as  I  had  ordered,  for  the  siege  was  to  be  begun  near  that 
place.  The  captains  of  Tascaltecal  arrived  in  Tesaico  with 
very  brilliant  and  well-armed  forces,  five  or  six  days  be- 
fore the  Feast  of  the  Holy  Ghost,  which  was  the  time  I 
had  designated  to  them.  When  I  learned  that  day  of  their 
approach,  I  went  out  to  meet  them  with  great  rejoicing,  and 
they  came  so  gladly  and  so  well  disciplined  that  things 
could  not  have  been  better.  According  to  the  account 
the  captains  made,  there  were  more  than  fifty  thousand 
warriors,  who  were  well  received  by  us  and  given  quarters. 

The  second  day  after  the  Feast,  I  ordered  all  the  foot 
soldiers  and  horsemen  to  assemble  in  the  square  of  the 
Division  of  c^  °^  Tesaico,  that  I  might  divide  them  and 
the  Forces  assign  them  to  the  captains,  who  were  to 
for  the  iea(i  them  in  three  divisions  to  be  stationed 
in  three  cities  which  are  around  Temixtitan.  I 
made  Pedro  de  Alvarado, 1  captain  of  one  division,  as- 

1  Pedro  de  Alvarado  was  one  of  four  brothers  all  of  whom  fought 

Third  Letter  61 

signing  him  thirty  horsemen,  eighteen  archers  and 
musketeers,  and  one  hundred  and  fifty  foot  soldiers  with 
swords  and  shields,  and  more  than  twenty-five  thousand 
warriors  of  Tascaltecal;  these  were  to  make  their  head- 
quarters in  Tacuba.  I  made  Cristobal  de  Olid,  captain 
of  another  division,  to  whom  I  assigned  thirty  horsemen, 
eighteen  archers  and  musketeers,  and  a  hundred  and 
sixty  foot-soldiers  with  swords  and  shields,  and  more  than 
twenty  thousand  warriors  of  our  allies;  these  were  to 
make  their  headquarters  in  Cuyoacan.  Of  the  third 
division,  I  made  Gonzalo  de  Sandoval,  alguacil  mayor, 
captain,  assigning  him  twenty-four  horsemen,  four 
musketeers,  fifteen  archers,  and  a  hundred  and  fifty 
foot  soldiers  with  swords  and  shields,  fifty  of  whom  were 
chosen  among  those  I  had  brought  in  my  company,  and 

under  the  command  of  Cortes ;  Jorge  served  afterwards  in  Guatemala, 
and  died  in  Madrid  in  1540;  Gomez  died  in  Peru,  and  Juan  a  bastard 
brother  died  at  sea  while  going  to  Cuba  to  bring  horses.  Pedro  was 
one  of  the  most  daring  and  cruel  of  the  Spanish  captains;  two  exploits 
gained  him  a  conspicuous  place  in  the  annals  of  the  conquest,  the 
first  being  the  massacre  of  the  nobles  during  the  religious  dance  in 
the  great  temple,  which  provoked  such  terrible  consequences,  and 
the  second  his  renowned  leap  which  still  holds  its  place  amongst  the 
heroic  feats  of  history  under  the  name  of  El  Salto  de  Alvarado,  a  street 
in  Mexico  near  the  spot  of  the  alleged  jump  perpetuating  the  legend. 

Bernal  Diaz  denies  the  fact,  and  bluntly  explains  that  the  story 
took  its  origin  from  a  libellous  refrain  or  pasquinade  composed  by  a 
soldier  who  had  a  sharp  faculty  for  such  rhyming.  This  represented 
Alvarado  as  deserting  his  two  hundred  and  fifty  men  during  the  retreat 
of  the  Noche  Triste,  saving  himself  by  jumping  his  horse  over  a  canal, 
and  it  passed,  according  to  Diaz,  into  the  common  stock  of  camp 
stories  and  jokes.  This  desertion  was  one  of  the  accusations  presented 
in  his  trial  (record  published  by  D.  Jose"  Ramirez,  Mex.  1847)  to  which 
Alvarado  answered  that  he  had  held  his  men  together  as  long  as  he 
could,  but  that  it  was  they  who  deserted  him,  leaving  him  wounded, 
with  his  horse  killed,  and  that  he  escaped  only  by  a  soldier  taking 
him  up  behind  him  on  his  horse  in  the  fight;  nothing  is  said  about 
any  "leap."  Cortes  likewise  never  mentions  it.  The  legend  will 
never  die,  for  it  is  of  those  which  please  popular  fancy  and  become 
enshrined  in  the  historical  folk-lore,  which  is  imperishable. 

After  the  conquest,  he  was  made  governor  of  Cuauhtemallan  and 
Chiapa,  but  his  restless  spirit  spurred  him  to  other  adventures,  and 

62  Letters  of  Cortes 

more  than  thirty  thousand  men  of  the  people  of 
Guajucingo,  Churultecal,  and  Calco.  This  division  was 
to  go  to  the  city  of  Iztapalapa  for  the  purpose  of  destroy- 
ing it,  and  afterwards  to  advance  over  a  causeway  in  the 
lake,  protected  by  the  brigantines,  in  order  to  join  with 
the  garrison  at  Cuyoacan,  so  that  after  I  entered  the 
lake  with  the  brigantines,  the  alguacil  mayor  might  fix 
his  headquarters  wherever  it  seemed  to  him  most  con- 
venient. For  the  thirteen  brigantines  with  which  I  was 
to  enter  the  lake,  I  left  three  hundred  men,  almost  all 
of  whom  were  sailors l  and  well  drilled,  so  that  in  each 
brigantine  were  twenty-five  Spaniards;  and  each  small 
vessel  had  a  captain,  a  pilot,  and  six  archers  and 

According  to  the  foregoing  order  the  captains,  who 
were  to  command  the  forces  in  the  cities  of  Tacuba  and 

he  fitted  out  an  expedition  in  1535,  by  royal  licence,  composed  of 
some  five  or  more  ships,  carrying  fifteen  hundred  men,  and  the  neces- 
sary horses  and  arms,  bound  for  Peru,  where  he  landed  at  Puerto 
Vie  jo,  marching  thence  to  Quito.  His  arrival  was  unwelcome  to 
Pizarro  and  Diego  Almargo,  who  solved  the  difficulty  by  buying  out 
his  armament  for  100,000  castellanos  said  at  the  time  to  have  been  an 
enormous  price.  He  returned  to  Mexico,  and  undertook  other  ven- 
tures to  the  Spice  Islands  and  California,  and  was  finally  killed  in  1541 
by  a  kick  from  a  horse.  When  dying,  he  was  asked  where  he  suffered, 
to  which  he  replied  "  In  my  soul. " 

Alvarado  was  called  Tonatiuh  (the  sun)  by  the  natives,  on  account 
of  his  high  colouring  and  red  beard;  he  was  handsome,  physically 
strong  and  brave,  a  typical  swashbuckler  of  his  period,  cruel  to  the 
Indians,  faithless  to  his  friends,  of  quick  temper,  poor  judgment, 
and  known  as  a  confirmed  liar.  Bernal  Diaz  fought  in  Alvarado's 
division  during  the  siege. 

1  Although  a  number  of  the  men  had  been  sailors  or  fishermen, 
and  consequently  knew  something  about  handling  boats,  none  of  them 
wanted  to  act  as  rowers  for  the  brigantines,  and  it  was  with  difficulty 
that  Cortes  completed  his  crews.  Many  of  the  natives  of  Palos, 
Triana,  and  other  sea-ports,  whom  he  ordered  to  take  the  oars,  even 
objected  on  the  score  of  their  gentle  birth,  but  the  commander  en- 
forced his  orders  in  spite  of  all  excuses  and  protests.  Each  brigantine 
displayed  the  royal  standard  as  well  as  its  own  particular  ensign 
(Bernal  Diaz). 

Third  Letter  63 

Cuyoacan,  after  receiving  instructions  as  to  what  they 
were  to  do,  left  Tesaico  on  the  tenth  of  May,  and  slept 
in  a  fine  town,  called  Aculman,  two  and  a  half  leagues 
from  there.  The  same  day,  I  learned  that  some  dispute 
had  arisen  between  the  captains  about  the  quarters, 
and,  to  settle  this  and  re-establish  peace,  I  immediately 
sent  a  person  who  reproved  and  pacified  them.  *      On 

1  According  to  Bernal  Diaz,  who  was  in  Alvarado's  division, 
Olid  had  taken  possession  of  all  the  available  houses  in  Acolman  for 
himself  and  his  troops,  marking  the  houses  thus  appropriated  with 
green  branches,  so  that  when  Alvarado's  division  reached  the  town 
there  were  no  quarters  for  them.  The  soldiers  of  the  two  divisions 
almost  fell  to  fighting,  and  the  two  commanders  had  challenged  one 
another,  but  several  of  the  cooler-headed  officers  interfered  and  re- 
stored a  semblance  of  peace ;  but  Alvarado  and  Olid  were  never  after- 
wards friends.  Cortes  sent  the  Franciscan,  Fray  Pedro  Melgarejo 
and  Captain  Luis  Marin,  as  his  peace-makers. 

Another  incident  occurred  at  this  time,  which  Cortes  passes  over  in 
silence.  This  was  the  desertion  of  the  Tlascalan  general,  Xicotencatl, 
who  left  the  army,  accompanied  by  a  few  followers,  and  returned  to 
Tlascala.  Various  reasons  are  given  for  his  action;  Bernal  Diaz  at- 
tributes it  to  jealousy  of  Chichimecatl,  and  a  perfidious  plan  to  get  pos- 
session of  his  lands  while  the  latter  was  absent,  fighting  against  Mexico. 
Herrera  ascribes  his  desire  to  return  home,  to  a  love  affair  (lib.  i., 
cap.  xvii.).  There  had  been  a  quarrel  between  a  Spanish  soldier  and 
a  Tlascalan  chief,  in  which  the  latter  was  badly  wounded;  the  matter 
was  hushed  up,  so  that  Cortes  should  not  hear  it,  as  he  was  very  strict 
in  such  matters;  thus  the  soldier  remained  unpunished  and  as  Xico- 
tencatl was  a  relative  of  the  wounded  chief  he  left  (Prescott,  lib.  vi. , 
cap.  iv.).  Cortes  first  sent  some  Tlascalans  to  seek  to  induce  him  to 
return,  and,  this  failing,  he  despatched  some  Spanish  horsemen,  with 
orders  to  arrest  the  general  and  bring  him  back.  He  simultaneously 
sent  news  of  the  affair  to  the  Senate  of  Tlascala,  informing  the  senators 
that  amongst  Spaniards,  desertion  was  punishable  by  death.  The  ver- 
sions of  Xicotencatl's  end  do  not  agree.  Herrera  describes  his  death  by 
hanging  in  public  at  Texcoco,  while  Bernal  Diaz  says  he  was  executed 
where  he  was  captured.  Xicotencatl  had  always  mistrusted  the 
Spaniards,  nor  could  the  blandishments  of  Cortes  nor  the  popular 
sentiment  in  Tlascala  ever  change  his  opinion.  He  was  opposed  to 
the  alliance,  and  after  fighting  the  Spaniards  in  the  field,  he  con- 
tinued to  oppose  them  in  the  councils  of  his  people.  Cortes  was  aware 
of  his  sentiments  and  conscious  of  the  bad  effect  such  an  example  of 
desertion  would  have  if  left  unpunished ;  hence  it  is  likely  he  was  glad 
to  be  rid  of  an  ally  on  whose  fidelity  he  could  not  count.     Xicotencatl's 

64  Letters  of  Cortes 

the  morning  of  the  next  day,  they  left  there,  and  passed 
the  night  in  another  town,  called  Gilotepeque,  which  they 
found  deserted,  as  it  was  within  the  enemy's  country. 
The  next  day,  they  continued  their  march  according  to 
their  instructions,  and  slept  in  a  city,  called  Guatitlan, 
which  I  have  before  mentioned  to  Your  Majesty,  and 
which  they  also  found  deserted.  The  same  day  they 
passed  through  two  other  cities  and  towns,  where  they 
likewise  found  no  people.  At  the  hour  of  vespers,  they 
entered  Tacuba,  which  they  also  found  deserted,  and 
made  their  quarters  in  the  houses  of  the  chief,  which  are 
very  beautiful  and  large.  Although  it  was  already  late 
the  warriors  of  Tascaltecal  made  an  inspection  of  the 
entrance  of  two  causeways  leading  to  the  city  of  Temix- 
titan  and  fought  bravely  for  two  or  three  hours  with  the 
people  of  the  city  until  night  separated  them,  when  they 
returned  safely  to  Tacuba. 

The  next  morning,  the  two  captains  agreed,  as  I  had 
commanded  them,  to  cut  off  the  aqueducts  which  sup- 
plied Temixtitan  with  fresh  water.  One  of  them  went  with 
twenty  horsemen  and  some  archers  and  musketeers  to  the 
source  of  the  water,  about  a  quarter  of  a  league  from 
there,  and  broke  the  pipes,  which  were  of  wood  and 
mortar  and  stone,  fighting  valiantly  with  those  of  the 
city  who  defended  the  spring  by  land  and  water.  At 
last  he  routed  them  and  accomplished  his  purpose,  cutting 
off  the  fresh  water  from  the  city — a  very  politic  stratagem. 
The  same  day,  the  captains  repaired  certain  dangerous 
passes,  bridges,  and  aqueducts,  in  the  neighbourhood  of 
the  lake,  so  that  the  horsemen  might  the  more  easily  gallop 
from  one  part  to  another.  This  delayed  them  three 
or  four  days,  during  which  they  had  many  skirmishes  with 
those  of  the  city,  wherein  some  Spaniards  were  wounded, 
many  of  the  enemy  killed,  and  many  bridges  and  dikes 

act  of  desertion  was  indefensible,  and  its  penalty  by  the  code  of 
Tlascala  was  death. 

Third  Letter  65 

captured.  There  was  much  bandying  of  words,  and 
many  challenges  between  those  of  the  city  and  the 
warriors  of  Tascaltecal,  things  very  remarkable  and  worthy 
of  notice. 

The  captain,  Cristobal  de  Olid,  departed  with  the  people 
who  were  to  be  garrisoned  in  Cuyoacan,  two  leagues  from 
Tacuba,  and  the  captain,  Pedro  de  Alvarado  stayed  with 
his  people  in  garrison  at  Tacuba,  where  he  had  skirmishes 
daily  with  the  Indians.     The  same  day  that  Cristobal 
de  Olid  left  for  Cuyoacan,  he  and  his  men  arrived  at  ten 
o'clock  in  the  morning  and  lodged  in  the  houses  of  its 
chief,  finding  the  city  deserted.     The  next  morning,  with 
about  twenty  horsemen,  some  archers,  and  some  six  or 
seven  thousand  warriors  of  Tascaltecal  they  went  to  take 
a  look  at  the  causeway  leading  to  Temixtitan ;  and  they 
found  the  enemy  well  prepared,  the  causeway  broken  up, 
and  many  barricades  erected.     They  engaged  the  enemy „ 
and  the  archers  wounded  and  killed  some  of  their  number. 
This  was  repeated  for  six  or  seven  days,  on  each  of  which 
there  were  many  encounters  and  skirmishes.     One  night, 
at  midnight,  certain  watchmen  of  the  city  gave  their  cry 
near  our  quarters  and  the  Spanish  watchman  cried  "To 
arms!"  whereupon  our  men  sallied  forth,  but  none  of  the 
enemy  were  to  be  found,  for  the  cry  which  had  alarmed 
them  had  been  given  very  far  from  headquarters.     As 
our  people  were  distributed  in  so  many  places,  the  gar- 
risons longed,  as  for  their  salvation,  for  my  arrival  with 
the  brigantines  and  they  continued  hopeful  those  few 
days  until  I  arrived,  as  I  shall  hereafter  relate.     During 
those  six  days,  they  would  meet  from  both  headquarters 
daily  as  they  were  near  each  other,  and  the  horsemen 
scoured  the  country  killing  many  of  the  enemy  with 
their  lances  and  bringing  into  the  headquarters  from  the 
mountains  great  quantities   of  maize,   of  which   bread 
is  made,  the  principal  food   of  these   parts,   and  much 
superior  to  that  of  the  Islands. 

VOL.  11.-  5 

66  Letters  of  Cortes 

In  the  preceding  chapters,  I  stated  that  I  remained 
in  Tesaico  with  three  hundred  men  and  the  thirteen 
Cortes  brigantines.  As  soon  as  I  knew  the  divisions 
Takes  were  in  the  places  assigned  for  their  camps, 

Command  I  could  embark  and  take  a  look  at  the  city 
°f  .the  .  and  do  some  damage  to  the  canoes.  Although 
I  very  much  wished  to  go  by  land,  to  give 
directions  in  the  camps,  the  captains  were  persons  who 
could  be  trusted  with  what  they  had  in  hand,  while  the 
affair  of  the  brigantines  was  a  matter  of  great  importance, 
requiring  stern  discipline  and  attention,  so  I  determined 
to  embark  in  them,  because  we  calculated  to  have  the 
greatest  risk  and  adventure  by  water.  The  principal 
persons  of  my  company,  however,  required  me  in  due 
form  to  go  with  the  garrisons,  as  they  believed  that  they 
were  to  undertake  the  most  dangerous  part.  The  day 
after  the  Feast  of  Corpus  Christi,  Friday,  at  dawn,  I 
ordered  Gonzalo  de  Sandoval,  alguacil  mayor,  to  go  with 
his  people  directly  to  the  city  of  Iztapalapa,  about  six 
short  leagues  from  there;  shortly  after  mid-day  they 
arrived  there,  and  began  to  burn  it,  and  to  fight  with 
its  people,  who,  when  they  saw  the  great  force  of  the 
alguacil  mayor,  for  more  than  thirty-five  or  forty  thou- 
sand of  our  allies  had  gone  with  him,  retreated  to  their 
canoes.  The  alguacil  mayor,  with  all  the  people  accom- 
panying him,  lodged  in  that  town,  and  remained  there  that 
day  awaiting  my  orders  and  what  might  happen  to  me. 

Immediately  after  I  had  despatched  the  alguacil  mayor, 
I  embarked  in  the  brigantines,  and  we  started  with  sails 
and  oars;  and  while  the  alguacil  mayor  was  fighting  and 
burning  the  city  of  Iztapalapa,  we  came  in  sight  of  a 
very  large  and  strong  hill l  near  that  city,  all  surrounded 

»  Called  Tepepolco:  extensive  quarries  of  the  red  porous  stone 
Tetzontli,  used  for  building  purposes,  were  found  here,  and  the  place 
afterwards  became  the  property  of  Cortes,  and  was  known  as  Pefion 
del  Marques. 

Third  Letter  67 

by  water,  where,  from  the  towns  around  about  the  lake  as 
well  as  from  Temixtitan,  many  people  had  collected,  for 
they  well  knew  that  our  first  encounter  would  be  with 
those  of  Iztapalapa,  and  they  were  there  for  their  own 
defence  and  also  to  attack  us  if  possible.  When  they 
saw  the  fleet  coming,  they  began  to  shout  and  make  great 
smoke  signals  so  that  all  the  cities  of  the  lake  might 
know  and  be  prepared.  Although  my  intention  was  to 
attack  that  part  of  Iztapalapa  which  is  on  the  water, 
we  retraced  our  course  to  that  hill  or  knoll  and  I  leaped 
on  it  with  a  hundred  and  fifty  men ;  it  was  very  steep  and 
high  and  it  was  with  much  difficulty  that  we  began  to  as- 
cend it.  We  stormed  their  trenches  on  the  top,  and  pitched 
into  them  in  such  wise  that  not  one  of  them  escaped, 
except  the  women  and  children.  In  this  fight  they 
wounded  twenty-five  Spaniards,  but  it  was  a  beautiful 

As  the  people  of  Iztapalapa  had  made  smoke  signals 
from  some  towers  of  their  idols  which  stand  on  a  very 
high  hill  near  the  city,  Temixtitan  and  the  other  cities 
on  the  water  knew  that  I  had  already  entered  the  lake 
with  the  brigantines,  and  they  quickly  assembled  a  very 
great  fleet  of  canoes  to  attack  us,  and  to  discover  what 
sort  of  things  the  brigantines  were;  and  from  what  we 
could  judge  the  canoes  exceeded  five  hundred  in  number. 
When  I  saw  that  their  course  was  straight  towards  us,  I, 
and  the  people  who  had  disembarked  on  that  great  hill, 
re-embarked  in  great  haste,  and  I  ordered  the  captains 
of  the  brigantines  not  to  move  at  all,  so  that  the  canoes 
believing  that  from  fear  of  them  we  did  not  dare  to  move 
out  towards  them  might  decide  to  attack  us.  Thus 
they  directed  their  fleet  against  us  with  great  impetus; 
but  at  about  two  arrow-shots'  distance  they  stopped  and 
remained  still.  I  strongly  desired  that  the  first  en- 
counter with  them  should  be  a  great  victory  and  inspire 
them  with  a  dread  of  the  brigantines,  which  held  the 

68  Letters  of  Cortes 

key  of  the  whole  war,  for  both  the  Mexicans  and  we  were 
exposed  to  the  greatest  damage  on  the  water.  It  pleased 
Our  Lord  that,  while  we  were  observing  one  another, 
a  very  favourable  land  wind  sprang  up,  enabling  us  to 
attack  them;  so  I  immediately  ordered  the  captains  to 
break  through  the  fleet  of  canoes  and  pursue  them  till 
they  took  refuge  in  Temixtitan.  As  the  wind  was  very 
good,  we  bore  down  in  the  midst  of  them,  though  they 
fled  as  fast  as  they  could,  and  destroyed  an  infinite 
number  of  canoes  and  killed  and  drowned  many  of  the 
enemy,  the  greatest  sight  to  be  seen  in  the  world.  We 
followed  them  in  this  pursuit  fully  three  long  leagues, 
until  we  shut  them  up  amidst  the  houses  of  the  city;  and 
thus  it  pleased  Our  Lord  to  give  us  the  best  and  greatest 
victory  which  we  could  have  asked  or  desired. 

The  garrison  of  Cuyoacan  could  see  better  than  that  of 
Tacuba  the  movements  of  the  brigantines,  and  when  they 
beheld  all  the  thirteen  sails  on  the  water,  favoured  by 
such  good  weather,  knocking  the  enemy's  canoes  to 
pieces,  they  afterwards  assured  me  it  was  the  one  thing 
in  the  world  which  gave  them  the  most  pleasure  and  that 
they  most  wished  for.  As  I  have  said,  they  and  those  at 
Tacuba  strongly  wished  me  to  come  there,  and  with  good 
reason,  for  both  garrisons  were  in  the  midst  of  such 
multitudes  of  enemies;  but  Our  Lord  miraculously  in- 
spired them  and  diminished  the  enemy's  courage  so  that 
they  were  unable  to  decide  to  attack  our  camp,  but 
had  they  done  so,  they  would  have  done  great  harm  to  the 
Spaniards,  although  they  were  always  well  prepared  and 
determined  to  conquer  or  die,  like  men  cut  off  from  all 
succour  save  what  they  hoped  from  God.  When  the 
garrison  of  Cuyoacan  saw  us  pursuing  the  canoes,  most 
of  the  horsemen  and  foot  soldiers  took  the  road  towards 
the  city  of  Temixtitan,  and  fought  very  stoutly  with  the 
Indians  who  were  on  the  causeway.  They  captured  the 
trenches  which  had  been  made,  and  passed  over  many 

Third  Letter  69 

abandoned  bridges,  on  foot  and  on  horseback  under  cover 
of  the  brigantines  which  sailed  near  the  causeway.  Our 
allies  of  Tascaltecal  and  the  Spaniards  pursued  the  enemy, 
some  of  whom  they  killed  and  others  they  forced  to  seek 
refuge  in  the  water  on  the  other  side  of  the  causeway 
from  where  the  brigantines  approached.  Thus  vic- 
toriously they  advanced  a  long  league  on  the  causeway 
until  they  reached  the  place  where  I  stopped  with  the 
brigantines,  as  I  shall  hereafter  relate. 

We  continued  chasing  the  canoes  with  the  brigantines 
for  nearly  three  leagues.  Those  which  escaped  us  took 
refuge  amongst  the  houses  of  the  city,  and,  The  Fortress 
as  it  was  already  vespers,  I  ordered  the  brig-  of  Xoloc 
an  tines  to  retire,  and  we  arrived  with  them  at  the 
causeway.  Here  I  determined  to  land  with  thirty 
men  and  capture  two  small  towers i  of  their  idols, 
which  were  surrounded  by  a  low  wall  of  stone  and 
mortar ;  and,  when  we  landed,  they  fought  us 
very  stoutly  to  defend  them,  but  finally  after  much 
danger  and  trouble  we  captured  them.  I  immedi- 
ately landed  and  mounted  three  heavy  iron  field 
pieces  which  I  had  brought.  As  about  half  a  league 
of  that  causeway  between  that  point  and  the  city  was 
crowded  with  the  enemy,  and  on  both  sides  of  the  cause- 
way the  water  was  covered  with  canoes  full  of  warriors, 
I  ordered  one  of  the  field  pieces  to  be  aimed  and  fired, 
which  raked  the  causeway,  and  did  much  execution 
amongst  the  enemy.  Owing  to  the  carelessness  of  the 
gunner,  all  our  powder  was  set  fire  to  when  he  fired, 
although  it  was  little.     I  presently  sent  a  brigantine  to 

»  This  was  the  small  fortress  called  Xoloc,  which  stood  at  the 
junction  of  the  causeways  leading  to  Itztapalapan  and  Cuyoacan 
respectively.  It  consisted  of  two  small  towers  surrounded  by  a 
wall,  and  was  not  large  enough  to  hold  a  numerous  garrison,  and 
hence  was  easily  captured  by  the  Spaniards.  It  was  just  after 
passing  Xoloc  that  the  first  meeting  between  Montezuma  and  Cortes 
took  place. 

70  Letters  of  Cortes 

Iztapalapa,  some  two  leagues  distant,  where  the  alguacil 
mayor  was,  to  bring  all  the  powder  he  had. 

Although,  at  the  beginning,  it  was  my  intention  on 
embarking  in  the  brigantines  to  go  to  Cuyoacan  and  plan 
to  do  as  much  damage  as  possible,  as  soon  as  I  had  landed 
on  the  causeway  that  day  and  had  captured  those  two 
towers,  I  determined  to  establish  my  headquarters  there, 
and  to  keep  the  brigantines  near  the  towers.  I  also 
ordered  the  force  at  Cuyoacan  and  some  fifty  of  the 
alguacil  mayor's  soldiers  to  come  there  next  day.  Hav- 
ing determined  these  measures,  we  passed  the  night  with 
caution,  for  we  were  in  much  danger,  as  all  the  people 
of  the  city  gathered  there  on  the  causeway  and  on  the 
water.  At  midnight  a  great  multitude  of  people  arrived 
in  canoes  and  began  to  attack  our  camp  by  the  causeway : 
certainly  they  threw  us  into  great  fear  and  alarm,  es- 
pecially as  it  was  at  night  and  they  never  attack  at  such 
an  hour  nor  had  they  ever  been  seen  to  fight  at  night 
except  when  they  were  very  sure  of  victory.  As  we 
were  well  prepared,  we  fought  with  them,  using  the  small 
field  pieces  from  the  brigantines,  each  of  which  carried 
one,  and  the  archers  and  musketeers  did  their  part.  Thus 
they  dared  not  advance  further,  nor  did  they  arrive  near 
enough  to  do  us  any  injury;  so  they  left  off  attacking 
us  for  the  remainder  of  the  night. 

Next  morning  at  daybreak,  there  arrived  at  my  camp 
on  the  causeway,  fifteen  archers  and  musketeers,  fifty 
men  armed  with  swords  and  shields,  and  seven  or  eight 
horsemen  from  the  garrison  at  Cuyoacan.  When  they  got 
there,  those  of  the  city  were  fighting  with  us  from  canoes 
and  on  the  causeway,  and  the  multitude  was  such  that 
on  land  and  water  we  could  see  nothing  but  people,  who 
shouted  and  yelled  so  that  it  seemed  the  world  was  sinking. 
We  fought  with  them,  advancing  on  the  causeway  and 
capturing  a  bridge  which  they  had  removed,  and  a  barri- 
cade they  had  made  at  its  entrance.     We  did  them  such 

Third  Letter  71 

damage  with  the  field  pieces  and  the  horsemen,  that  we 
almost  shut  them  up  amidst  the  first  houses  of  the  city. 
As  many  canoes  were  collected  on  the  other  side  of  the 
causeway  where  the  brigantines  could  not  pass,  doing  us 
much  harm  with  the  arrows  and  darts  they  discharged 
at  us  on  the  causeway,  I  ordered  an  opening  to  be  made 
near  our  camp,  and  sent  four  brigantines  through  from 
the  other  side,  which  as  soon  as  they  passed  through,  shut 
up  all  the  canoes  amongst  the  houses  of  the  city,  so  that 
they  did  not  dare  in  any  way  to  come  out  into  the  open. 
On  the  other  side  of  the  causeway,  the  other  eight  brigan- 
tines fought  with  the  canoes  and  shut  them  up  amongst 
the  houses,  following  in  amongst  them,  where,  until 
then,  they  had  not  ventured  to  go,  because  there  were  so 
many  shallows  and  stakes  which  prevented  them.  When 
they  found  canals  where  the  brigantines  could  enter  with 
safety,  they  fought  with  the  people  in  the  canoes  and 
captured  some  of  them,  and  burned  many  of  the  houses 
in  the  outskirts.  We  spent  all  that  day  in  fighting  in  the 
aforesaid  manner. 

The  following  day,  the  alguacil  mayor  departed  from 
Iztapalapa  with  his  people,  Spaniards  as  well  as  our 
allies,  for  Cuyoacan  whence  there  is  a  cause-  Cortes 
way  about  a  league  and  a  half  in  length  to  Completely 
the  mainland.  After  making  about  a  quarter  Invests 
of  a  league,  the  alguacil  mayor  reached  a  small 
city  [Mexicaltzingo]  which  is  also  on  the  water,  in 
many  parts  of  which  it  was  possible  to  ride  on  horse- 
back; the  inhabitants  began  fighting  with  him,  but  he 
routed  them,  killing  many,  and  burning  and  destroy- 
ing the  entire  city.  When  I  learned  that  the  Indians 
had  made  a  great  breach  in  the  causeway,  which  the 
people  could  not  easily  cross,  I  sent  two  brigantines 
to  help  them,  and  these  were  used  as  bridges  for  the 
foot  soldiers  to  cross  over.  When  they  had  crossed,  they 
went  to  camp  at  Cuyoacan,  and  the  alguacil  mayor  with 

72  Letters  of  Cortes 

ten  horsemen  took  the  causeway  road  to  our  camp. 
Upon  his  arrival  he  found  us  fighting,  so  he  and  his  men 
joined  in  and  began  to  fight  with  the  people  on  the  cause- 
way with  whom  we  were  engaged.  When  the  alguacil 
mayor  began  to  fight,  the  enemy  pierced  his  foot  with 
a  dart,  but,  although  he  and  some  others  were  wounded 
that  day,  we  did  such  harm  amongst  them  with  the 
large  field  pieces  and  cross-bows  and  muskets,  that 
neither  those  in  the  canoes,  nor  those  on  the  causeway, 
dared  come  near  us,  but  showed  more  fear  and  less  pride 
than  they  had  formerly  exhibited.  Thus  we  remained 
six  days,  having  daily  combat  with  them,  and  the  brigan- 
tines  set  fire  to  all  the  houses  they  could  in  the  outskirts 
of  the  city,  for  they  discovered  canals  by  which  they 
could  enter  the  outskirts  and  environs,  and  penetrated 
to  the  heart  of  it. 

This  produced  a  very  desirable  effect,  as  they  put 
a  stop  to  the  movements  of  the  canoes,  none  of  which 
dared  to  come  within  a  quarter  of  a  league  of  our 
camp.  The  next  day,  Pedro  de  Alvarado,  captain  of 
the  garrison  at  Tacuba,  reported  to  me  that  the  people 
of  Temixtitan  came  in  and  out  as  they  pleased  by  a  high- 
way which  leads  to  some  towns  on  the  mainland,  and 
by  another  small  one  which  joins  it,  and  he  believed 
that  should  they  find  themselves  hard  pressed,  they 
would  escape  by  that  way.  Although  I  desired  their 
departure  more  than  they  themselves  did,  as  we  could 
more  easily  overcome  them  on  the  mainland  than  in  the 
big  fortress  they  had  on  the  water,  nevertheless  in  order 
to  completely  shut  them  in  so  that  they  could  not  profit 
by  anything  from  the  mainland,  I  ordered  the  alguacil 
mayor  (although  he  was  wounded),  to  go  and  plant  his 
camp  at  a  little  village  at  the  end  of  one  of  the  two 
causeways.  He  left  with  twenty-three  horsemen,  a 
hundred  foot  soldiers,  eighteen  archers  and  musketeers, 
leaving  me  fifty  other  soldiers  for  my  company;  and, 

Third  Letter  73 

when  he  arrived  the  next  day,  he  planted  his  camp  where 
I  had  commanded  him.  Thenceforward  the  city  of  Temix- 
titan  was  surrounded  on  all  sides  wherever  they  could 
reach  the  mainland  by  the  causeways. 

I  had,  Very  Powerful  Lord,  two  hundred  Spanish 
foot  soldiers  in  the  camp  on  the  causeway,  amongst  whom 
were  twenty-five  archers  and  musketeers,  besides  the 
people  on  the  brigantines,  who  were  more  than  two  hun- 
dred and  fifty.  As  we  had  the  enemy  completely  in- 
vested and  had  many  friendly  warriors,  I  determined  to 
penetrate  into  the  city  as  far  as  possible  by  the  causeway, 
while  the  brigantines  should  cover  our  rear  on  the  one 
side  and  the  other.  I  ordered  some  horsemen  and  foot 
soldiers  of  the  division  in  Cuyoacan  to  repair  to  my  camp 
and  enter  with  us,  and  ten  horsemen  to  remain  at  the 
entrance  of  the  causeway,  protecting  our  rear.  It 
seemed  best  that  some  force  should  remain  in 
Cuyoacan,  because  the  natives  of  Suchimilco,  Culuacan, 
Iztapalapa,  Chilobusco,  Mexicalcingo,  Cuitaguacad, 
and  Mizquique,  which  are  all  on  the  water,  were 
rebellious  and  in  favour  of  those  of  the  city,  and  should 
they  wish  to  take  us  on  our  rear,  we  would  be  protected 
by  those  ten  or  twelve  horsemen  I  ordered  to  guard  the 
causeway,  while  many  more  remained  in  Cuyoacan  with 
more  than  ten  thousand  Indian  allies.  I  likewise  ordered 
the  alguacil  mayor  and  Pedro  de  Alvarado  to  attack, 
from  their  positions,  that  same  day,  for  I  wished  on  my 
part  to  gain  as  much  of  the  city  as  was  possible. 

Thus,  I  left  the  camp  early  in  the  morning,  and  ad- 
vanced on  foot  along  the  causeway.  We  speedily  found 
the  enemy,  defending  a  breach  in  the  road, 
one  lance-length  in  width  and  as  much  in  Entrance 
depth,  where  they  had  built  an  earthwork;  int0  the 
both     our    attack    and    their   defence    were  City 

very  stubborn.  Finally  we  took  it,  and  advanced  fur- 
ther by  the  causeway,  until  we  reached  the  entrance  of 

74  Letters  of  Cortes 

the  city,  where  stood  a  tower  of  their  idols,  at  the  foot 
of  which  was  a  broad,  high  bridge,  crossing  a  very 
wide  street  of  water  defended  by  another  strong  earth- 
work. As  we  reached  this  place,  they  began  to  attack 
us,  but  as  the  brigantines  were  on  both  sides  of  the  cause- 
way, we  took  it  without  loss,  which  would  have  been 
impossible  without  their  aid.  As  soon  as  they  began  to 
abandon  the  earthwork,  our  men  landed  from  the  brigan- 
tines, and  we  crossed  the  water,  as  did  those  of  Tascaltecal, 
Guajocingo,  Calco,  and  Tesaico,  who  were  more  than  eighty 
thousand  men.  While  we  filled  up  that  broken  bridge 
with  stones  and  adobes,  the  Spaniards  captured  another 
earthwork  in  the  principal  street,  which  is  the  broadest 
one  in  the  city,  but,  there  being  no  water  there,  it  was 
very  easily  captured.  They  followed  in  pursuit  of  the 
enemy  the  whole  length  of  the  street  until  the  latter 
reached  another  bridge  which  had  been  raised,  with  the 
exception  of  one  broad  beam  by  which  they  crossed. 
After  the  enemy  had  safely  crossed  to  where  they 
were  protected  by  the  water,  they  quickly  removed 
it.  They  had  thrown  up  on  the  other  side  of  the 
bridge  another  great  breastwork  of  earth  and  adobes. 
When  we  arrived  there,  we  could  not  pass  without 
throwing  ourselves  into  the  water,  and  this  was  very 
dangerous,  as  the  enemy  fought  very  valiantly,  and 
on  both  sides  of  the  street  there  was  an  infinite 
number  of  them  fighting  very  stoutly  from  the  roofs; 
but  when  some  archers  and  musketeers  arrived  and  we 
fired  with  two  field  pieces  up  the  street,  we  did  them 
much  damage.  As  soon  as  we  saw  this,  certain  Span- 
iards threw  themselves  into  the  water  and  crossed  to  the 
other  side,  which  it  required  two  hours  to  accomplish. 
When  the  enemy  saw  them  cross,  they  abandoned  the 
breastwork  and  the  roofs,  and  took  to  flight  through  the 
street,  and  thus  all  our  people  passed  over. 

I  immediately  ordered  that  bridge  filled  up  and  the 

Third  Letter  75 

breastwork  destroyed,  and  meanwhile  the  Spaniards 
continued  the  pursuit  along  the  street  and  our  Indian 
allies  followed  for  about  two  bow-shots  distance  until 
they  reached  another  bridge  which  is  near  the  square 
and  the  principal  buildings  of  the  city.  They  had  not 
removed  this  bridge  nor  did  they  have  an  earthwork, 
for  they  never  thought  we  would  gain  what  we  did  that 
day,  nor  did  even  we  expect  to  accomplish  half  as  much. 
A  field  piece  was  placed  at  the  entrance  of  the  square, 
and  did  the  enemy  much  damage,  for  they  were  so 
numerous  that  they  completely  filled  the  space.  The 
Spaniards,  seeing  there  was  no  water  there,  which  was 
the  usual  danger,  determined  to  penetrate  into  the  square, 
and,  when  those  of  the  city  saw  this  determination 
carried  out,  and  beheld  the  great  multitude  of  our  allies, 
(although  they  were  not  afraid  of  them  without  us)  they 
fled,  and  the  Spaniards  and  our  allies  pursued  them  till 
they  shut  them  up  in  the  court  of  their  idols,  which  is 
surrounded  by  a  wall  of  stone  and  mortar.  As  will  have 
been  seen  from  another  description  of  this,  it  has  as  great 
a  circumference  as  a  town  of  four  hundred  households; 
it  was  however  quickly  abandoned  by  them,  and  the 
Spaniards  and  our  allies  captured  it,  remaining  in  it  and 
on  the  towers  for  a  long  while.  When  the  inhabitants 
of  the  city  discovered  there  were  no  horsemen,  they 
turned  against  the  Spaniards  and  expelled  them  by 
force  from  the  towers  and  the  court  and  enclosure,  during 
which  our  men  found  themselves  in  much  hardship  and 
danger ;  as  they  came  in  more  than  a  retreat J  they  turned 
under  the  arches  of  the  courtyard.  But  the  enemy  at- 
tacking them  very  stoutly,  they  abandoned  this  position 
and  retired  to  the  square,  whence  they  were  expelled 
by  force  and  driven  into  the  street,  so  that  the  field  piece 
there  had  to  be  abandoned.    The  Spaniards,  being  unable 

1  Como  iban  mas  que  retraiendose  is  the  quaint  device  of  Cortes  to 
avoid  saying  that  the  Spaniards  were  in  full  flight. 

76  Letters  of  Cortes 

to  withstand  the  force  of  the  enemy,  had  to  retreat  exposed 
to  great  danger,  in  the  midst  of  which  it  pleased  God  that 
three  horsemen  should  advance  into  the  square;  when 
the  enemy  saw  them  they  believed  there  were  more, 
and  took  to  flight ;  and  the  horsemen  killed  some  of  them 
and  recaptured  the  court  and  enclosure  I  mentioned  above. 
In  the  principal  and  highest  tower,  which  has  a  hundred 
and  some  steps  to  the  top,  ten  or  twelve  of  the  principal 
Indians  of  the  city  fortified  themselves,  but  four  or  five 
Spaniards  forced  their  way  up  and  overpowered  and 
killed  all  of  them  in  spite  of  their  stout  defence. *  Five 
or  six  horsemen  afterwards  concerted  with  others  and  laid 
an  ambush  in  which  they  killed  more  than  thirty  of  the 

As  it  was  now  late,  I  ordered  our  people  to  collect 
and  retire,  and,  while  doing  so,  such  a  multitude  of 
the  enemy  pressed  on  them,  that,  had  it  not  been  for 
the  horsemen,  the  Spaniards  could  not  possibly  have 
escaped  without  injury.  But,  as  I  had  had  all  the  diffi- 
cult passes  in  the  street  and  causeway,  where  danger  was 
anticipated,  well  filled  in  with  adobes  by  the  time  of  re- 
tiring, the  horsemen  could  easily  move  about,  so  they 
turned  against  the  enemy,  who  were  harassing  our  rear- 
guard four  or  five  times  in  the  length  of  the  street,  killing 
some  of  them  with  their  lances.  Although  the  enemy 
saw  they  sustained  damage,  the  dogs  rushed  on  so  furi- 
ously that  we  could  not  check  them  nor  would  they  stop 
following  us.  The  whole  day  would  have  been  spent 
in  this  manner,  had  they  not  already  taken  many 
terraces  giving  on  to  the  street,  and  the  horsemen  were 

i  The  Mexican  historian,  Ixtlilxochitl,  is  authority  for  the  story 
that  Cortes  and  his  Texcocan  ally,  Prince  Ixtlilochitl,  headed  this 
assault  upon  the  great  teocalli,  penetrating  into  the  sanctuary  of  the 
idol;  and  that  Cortes  himself  tore  away  the  jewelled  mask  of  gold  from 
the  idol's  face  while  the  Prince  of  Texcoco  struck  off  its  head  with  his 
sword.  In  the  absence  of  any  mention  of  these  details  by  Cortes  or 
any  other  witnesses,  this  version  seems  unworthy  of  credence. 

Third  Letter  77 

from  this  cause  in  much  danger.  Thus  we  hastened 
forward  along  the  causeway  to  our  camp  without  losing 
a  single  Spaniard,  although  we  had  some  wounded;  and 
we  set  fire  to  most  of  the  best  houses  in  that  street,  so 
that  when  we  entered  again  they  could  not  injure  us 
from  the  roofs.  The  alguacil  mayor  and  Pedro  de  Alva- 
rado  fought  very  stoutly  this  day  from  their  positions, 
and  at  the  time  of  the  combats  we  were  a  league  and  a 
half  from  one  another;  the  population  of  the  city  is  so 
extended  that  perhaps  I  even  diminish  the  distance  be- 
tween us.  Our  allies  who  were  with  them  were  infinite 
and  fought  very  well,  retiring  that  day  without  sustaining 
any  loss. i 

In  the  meantime,  Don  Fernando,  Lord  of  Tesaico  and 
the  province  of  Aculuacan,  of  whom  I  have  heretofore 
made  relation  to  Your  Majesty,  succeeded  in  Don 

winning  over  all  the  natives  of  his  city  and  Fernando 
province  to  our  friendship,  who  till  now  ofTexcoco 
were  not  so  steadfast  in  it  as  they  afterwards  be- 
came. Many  chiefs  and  the  brothers  of  Don  Fernando 
daily  joined  him,  determined  to  declare  for  us  and 
to  fight  against  those  of  Mexico  and  Temixtitan.  As 
Don  Fernando  was  still  a  youth  and  professed  great 
love  for  the  Spaniards,  recognising  the  favour,  which,  in 
the  name  of  Your  Majesty,  had  been  extended  to  him  in 
the  gift  of  so  great  a  lordship,  though  there  were  others 

«  It  seems  incredible  that  neither  Spaniards  nor  allies  should 
have  sustained  any  loss  in  this  long  day's  fighting,  which,  though  it 
ended  to  their  advantage,  had  witnessed  their  utter  rout  and  the 
capture  of  their  gun  on  the  square.  Bernal  Diaz,  who  was  fighting 
under  Alvarado,  on  the  causeway  from  the  Tacuba  side,  gives  a  more 
convincing  description  of  the  daily  losses  and  the  wounds  which  the 
men  had  to  dress  as  best  they  could  when  they  returned  at  night  to 
their  camp.  There  was  a  soldier  Juan  Catalan,  who  was  reputed  to 
have  the  gift  of  healing  by  prayer  and  charms,  who  had  his  hands  full, 
as  the  Indians  also  placed  faith  in  him,  and  brought  him  all  their 
wounded.  "I  say,"  he  piously  adds,  "that  it  pleased  our  Lord  Jesus 
Christ  in  his  mercy  to  give  us  strength  and  to  speedily  heal  us.  " 

78  Letters  of  Cortes 

whose  rights  to  it  preceded  his,  he  worked  his  utmost 
to  induce  his  vassals  to  come  and  fight  against  those 
of  the  city,  and  expose  themselves  to  the  same  dan- 
ger and  hardship  as  we  ourselves.  He  spoke  with  his 
brothers,  six  or  seven  in  number,  all  well  disposed,  be- 
seeching them  to  bring  all  the  people  of  their  lordships 
to  help  me.  »He  sent  one  of  them,  called  Istrisuchil, 
who  is  twenty-three  or  twenty-four  years  of  age,  very 
brave,  beloved  and  feared  of  all,  as  captain,  who  arrived 
at  the  camp  on  the  causeway  with  more  than  thirty 
thousand  warriors,  very  well  supplied  in  their  fashion, 
and  another  twenty  thousand  joined  the  other  two 
camps. 1  I  received  them  gladly,  thanking  them  for 
their  good  disposition  and  conduct.  Your  Caesarian 
Majesty  may  well  judge  how  valuable  was  this  help  and 
friendship  from  Don  Fernando,  and  how  those  of  Temix- 
titan  felt  it,  to  see  those  whom  they  considered  their 
vassals,  friends,  relatives,  and  even  fathers,  brothers,  and 
sons,  marching  against  them. 

Fighting  went  on  in  the  city  for  two  days,  as  I  have 
said  above.  As  soon  as  these  people  came  to  our  help, 
the  natives  of  Suchimilco,  which  is  on  the  lake,  and  some 
Utumie2  tribes  who  are  a  mountain  people,   more  nu- 

»  The  Mexican  historian,  Ixtlilxochitl,  contradicts  Cortes  on  this 
point,  affirming  that  the  boy-king  Fernando  was  already  dead, 
and  that  his  brother  Ixtlilochitl  reigned.  Both  these  princes  bore 
the  same  Christian  name  of  Fernando,  hence  the  natural  and  unim- 
portant confusion  of  their  identity,  but,  as  Cortes  says  nothing  of 
the  first  one's  death,  which  he  could  have  no  motive  in  misrepresenting, 
and  distinguishes  very  clearly  between  the  two,  his  version,  given  at 
the  time,  must  prevail  over  that  of  a  later  writer.  The  same  chronicler 
claims  that  Ixtlilochitl  fought  throughout  the  siege  with  the  Span- 
iards, performing  prodigies  of  valour,  and  he  reproaches  Cortes  for 
suppressing  all  mention  of  these  services  in  his  despatches,  and  for 
failing  to  recompense  him  and  his  people  after  the  victory  to  which 
their  valour  so  largely  contributed  (Orozco  y  Berra,  lib.  iii.,  cap.  vi.). 

2  Otomies :  tribes  inhabiting  the  mountain  regions  to  the  west. 
Orozco  y  Berra  gives  June  nth  as  the  probable  date  of  their  arrival 
in  the  camp. 

Third  Letter  79 

merous  than  those  of  Suchimilco,  and  who  were  slaves 
of  Montezuma,  came  to  offer  themselves  as  vassals  of 
Your  Majesty,  begging  me  to  pardon  their  tardiness.  I 
received  them  very  well,  and  was  pleased  at  their  coming, 
for  they  constituted  the  only  danger  to  our  camp  in 

From  the  camp  on  the  causeway  we  had,  with  the  help 
of  the  brigantines,  burned  many  houses  in  the  outskirts 
of  the  city,  and  not  a  canoe  dared  venture  there.  I 
deemed  it  sufficient  for  our  safety  to  keep  seven  brigan- 
tines about  our  camp,  and  I  therefore  decided  to  send 
three  to  each  of  the  other  camps  of  the  alguacil  mayor  and 
Pedro  de  Alvarado,  instructing  the  captains  that,  as 
supplies  of  fresh  water,  fruits,  maize,  and  other  pro- 
visions came  from  the  mainland  on  those  sides,  they 
should  cruise  about  both  day  and  night,  taking  turns, 
and  moreover  that  they  should  back  up  our  people  when 
we  planned  an  assault  to  force  an  entrance  into  the  city. 
The  allotment  of  these  six  brigantines  to  the  two  other 
camps  was  a  very  necessary  and  profitable  measure, 
for  every  day  and  night  they  captured  many  canoes  and 

These  measures  being  decided,  and  the  people  above 
mentioned  having  come  peaceably  to  our  help,  I  told 
them  I  had  determined  to  enter  and  fight  in  the  city 
two  days  hence,  that  therefore  they  should  all  assemble, 
by  that  time,  well  prepared  and  furnished  for  war;  for 
by  this  I  would  recognise  whether  they  were  our  true 
friends ;  and  they  promised  to  be  ready.  The  next  day,  I 
had  the  people  prepared  and  equipped,  and  I  wrote  to 
the  camps  and  two  brigantines  what  I  had  determined 
and  what  they  should  do. 

After  having  heard  mass  next  morning,  and  having 
instructed  the  captains  as  to  what  they  should  do,  I  left 
our  quarters  with  fifteen  or  twenty  horsemen  and  three 
hundred    Spaniards    and   all   our  allies,    who    were    an 

80  Letters  of  Cortes 

infinite  number,  and,  advancing  along  the  causeway,  we 
found  the  enemy  already  waiting  for  us,  three  bow- 
Second  shots  from  the  camp,  yelling  fearfully.  During 
General  the  three  preceding  days  there  had  been  no 
Assault  on  fighting  with  them  so  they  had  undone  all  we 
the  City  jia(^  accomplished  in  filling  up  the  breaches  in 
the  causeway,  making  them  very  much  stronger  and 
more  dangerous  to  capture  than  before.  The  brigan- 
tines  accompanied  us  on  both  sides  of  the  causeway, 
for  they  could  approach  very  near,  and  do  much  damage 
with  field  pieces,  muskets,  and  crossbows.  Discovering 
this,  our  men  landed  and  captured  the  breast-works  and 
bridge;  we  crossed  to  the  other  side  and  pursued  the 
enemy,  who  immediately  fortified  themselves  in  the 
other  breast- works  and  bridges  they  had  prepared,  which, 
although  with  greater  trouble  and  danger  than  before, 
we  also  captured,  expelling  them  from  the  street  and 
square  where  the  great  houses  of  the  city  stand.  I  ordered 
that  no  Spaniard  should  leave  there  while  I  and  our 
allies  were  filling  the  breaks  in  the  causeway  with  stones 
and  adobes,  which  was  such  a  labour,  that  although  ten 
thousand  Indians  helped  us,  it  was  already  the  hour  of 
vespers  when  we  had  finished  making  repairs ;  during  all 
which  time  the  Spaniards  and  our  allies  were  constantly 
fighting  and  skirmishing  and  preparing  ambushes,  in 
which  many  of  the  enemy  perished.  I  rode  with  the 
horsemen  through  the  city  for  a  while,  and  in  the  streets 
where  there  is  no  water,  we  killed  with  our  lances  all 
whom  we  could  catch,  thus  holding  them  at  a  distance, 
nor  did  they  dare  to  come  on  dry  ground.  Seeing  that 
they  were  so  rebellious  and  showed  such  determination  to 
defend  themselves  to  the  death,  I  inferred  two  things  : 
first  that  we  should  recover  little  or  none  of  the  treasures 
they  had  taken  from  us,  and  the  other,  that  they  gave 
occasion  and  forced  us  to  totally  destroy  them.  This 
last  reason  caused  me  the  greater  grief,  for  it  weighed 

Third  Letter  81 

on  my  soul  and  made  me  reflect  on  what  means  I  might 
employ  to  frighten  them,  so  that  they  should  realise 
their  error  and  the  injury  they  would  sustain  from  us ; 
and  I  kept  on  burning  and  destroying  the  towers  of  their 
idols  and  their  houses.  In  order  to  make  them  feel  it 
the  more,  I  this  day  ordered  fire  to  be  set  to  the  great 
houses  in  the  square,  where  the  Spaniards  and  I  had 
first  been  quartered  when  they  expelled  us  from  the  city. 
They  were  so  extensive  that  a  prince  with  more  than  six 
hundred  persons  of  his  household  and  retinue  could  be 
lodged  in  them.  Some  others  close  to  them,  though 
somewhat  smaller,  were  also  very  splendid  and  fine,  and 
Montezuma  kept  all  kinds  of  birds  in  them.  Although 
it  grieved  me  much,  I  determined,  as  it  grieved  them 
even  more,  to  burn  these  edifices.  This  seemed  to  cause 
the  enemies  immense  sorrow,  as  well  as  to  their  allies  in 
the  cities  about  the  lake,  for  none  of  them  ever  thought 
our  force  would  be  sufficient  to  penetrate  so  far  into  the 
city;  and  they  were  greatly  dismayed.  After  setting 
fire  to  those  houses,  I  collected  our  people,  as  it  was 
already  late,  in  order  to  return  to  our  camp,  and, 
when  those  of  the  city  saw  we  were  retiring,  an  infinite 
number  of  them  charged  us  and  fell  upon  us  furiously, 
attacking  our  rear-guard.  As  the  whole  street  was 
available  to  the  horsemen,  we  turned  on  them,  lancing 
many  every  time;  nevertheless  they  would  not  keep 
away  from  our  rear,  yelling  all  the  time.  On  this  day, 
they  felt  and  showed  great  dismay,  especially  when  they 
saw  us  in  their  city,  burning  and  destroying  it,  and  the 
natives  of  Tesaico,  Calco,  Suchimilco,  and  the  Otomies 
fighting  against  them,  each  shouting  the  name  of  his 
province;  and  in  another  quarter  those  of  Tascaltecal, 
all  showing  them  their  countrymen  cut  in  pieces,  telling 
them  they  would  sup  off  them  that  night  and  breakfast 
off  them  next  morning,  as  in  fact  they  did.  We  returned 
to  our  camp  to  rest,  for  we  had  laboured  much  during 

YOL.  II. — 6 

82  Letters  of  Cortes 

that  day,  and  my  seven  brigantines  had  entered  that 
day  into  the  city  by  the  water  streets  and  burned  a  greater 
part  of  it.  The  captains  of  the  other  camps  and  the  six 
brigantines  fought  very  well  that  day,  and  about  what 
happened  to  them  I  might  dilate  a  great  deal,  but  to 
avoid  prolixity,  omit  doing  so,  and  limit  myself  to  saying 
that  after  the  victory  they  retired  to  their  camp  without 
suffering  any  loss. 

Early  in  the  morning  of  the  following  day,  after  having 
heard  mass,  I  returned  to  the  city  with  all  the  people 
Third  *n    ^e   same    order,    so   as   not   to   give  the 

General  enemy  time  to  excavate  the  bridges  and  re- 
Assault  on  build  the  barricades ;  but  notwithstanding  that 
*  e  lty  we  were  very  early,  two  of  the  three  water 
streets,  which  crossed  the  street  leading  from  this 
camp  to  the  large  houses  of  the  square,  had  been  re- 
established as  during  the  preceding  days  and  were  very 
difficult  to  capture;  so  much  so  that  the  combat  lasted 
from  eight  o'clock  in  the  morning  till  one  o'clock  in  the 
afternoon,  during  which  we  used  up  almost  all  the  arrows, 
ammunition,  and  musket  balls,  which  the  archers  and 
musketeers  had  with  them.  Your  Majesty  may  well 
believe  that  our  danger  each  time  we  captured  these 
bridges  was  unequalled,  because  to  take  them,  the  Span- 
iards were  obliged  to  swim  across  to  the  other  side,  which 
many  could  not  do,  because  the  enemy  awaited  them  with 
knife  and  lance  thrusts  to  prevent  their  landing.  But 
as  they  no  longer  had  roofs  on  the  other  side  from  whence 
to  injure  us,  and  we  used  our  crossbows  from  this  side 
on  them  (for  we  were  the  throw  of  a  horseshoe  from  each 
other),  the  Spaniards  daily  gathered  new  courage  and 
were  determined  to  cross,  for  they  saw  my  determination, 
and  sink  or  swim,  the  thing  must  be  done.  It  may  seem 
to  Your  Majesty,  that  after  having  gone  through  such 
danger  to  gain  these  bridges  and  barricades,  that  we  were 
negligent  in  not  holding  them  after  having  won  them,  so 

Third  Letter  83 

as  not  to  be  obliged  every  day  to  again  go  over  so  much 
danger  and  trouble,  which  unquestionably  were  very 
great,  and  certainly  it  must  appear  thus  to  those  who 
were  absent.  But  Your  Majesty  should  know  that  this 
could  in  no  wise  be  done,  because  two  things  were  re- 
quired to  do  it,  either  that  the  camp  should  be  trans- 
ferred from  where  it  was  to  the  square  enclosure  of  the 
towers  of  the  idols,  or  that  a  guard  should  be  placed  at 
the  bridges  during  the  night;  and  neither  one  nor  the 
other  could  be  done  without  great  danger,  nor  was  there 
possibility  of  it,  because  placing  the  camp  in  the  city 
we  should  have  had  to  sustain  a  thousand  contests  day 
and  night  and  at  every  hour,  and  they  would  have  fought 
us  and  given  us  intolerable  labour,  attacking  us  on  every 
side,  they  being  so  many  and  we  so  few.  As  for  placing 
people  to  guard  the  bridges  by  night,  the  Spaniards  were 
so  weary  after  fighting  all  day,  that  it  was  impossible 
to  do  this,  and  hence  we  were  obliged  to  retake  them 
every  day  when  we  entered  the  city.  That  day,  as  we 
were  delayed  in  retaking  those  bridges  and  refilling  them, 
no  time  was  left  for  anything  else,  except  that  by  another 
principal  street  leading  to  the  city  of  Tacuba,  two  other 
bridges  were  captured  and  filled  up,  and  many  good 
houses  in  this  street  were  burned;  thus  the  afternoon 
came  on  and  with  it  the  hour  for  retiring,  which  was 
always  accompanied  by  little  less  danger  than  taking 
the  bridges,  for  seeing  that  we  were  in  retreat,  those  of 
the  city  would  recover  as  much  courage  as  if  they  bad 
won  the  greatest  victory  in  the  world,  and  we  were  flying 
from  them.  To  retire  it  was  necessary  that  the  bridges 
should  be  well  filled  up  and  made  level  with  the  ground 
of  the  streets,  so  that  the  horsemen  might  freely  gallop 
from  one  place  to  another;  and  as  they  pursued  so  eagerly 
we  sometimes  feigned  in  the  retreat  to  be  flying,  and  then 
the  horsemen  would  turn  on  them  and  we  would  always 
capture  twelve  or  thirteen  of  the  bravest,  and  with  these 

84  Letters  of  Cortes 

manoeuvres  and  some  ambushes  we  constantly  laid  for 
them,  they  would  always  get  the  worst  of  it.  Certainly 
it  was  an  admirable  thing  to  see,  for,  although  the  injury 
and  damage,  with  which  they  were  threatened  from  us 
at  the  hour  of  our  retreat,  was  notorious,  they  would 
nevertheless  follow  us  until  they  saw  us  out  of  the  city. 
With  this  we  returned  to  our  camp,  and  the  captains  of  the 
other  camps  reported  to  me  that  they  had  done  very  well 
that  day,  and  had  killed  many  people  by  water  and  land. 

The  captain  Pedro  de  Alvarado  who  was  in  Tacuba, 
wrote  to  me  that  he  had  captured  two  or  three  bridges, 
for  he  was  on  the  causeway  which  leads  from  the  market 
of  Temixtitan  to  Tacuba,  and  the  three  brigantines  I  had 
given  him  could  reach  a  landing  place  on  the  same  cause- 
way, and  he  had  not  been  exposed  to  as  much  danger  as 
on  the  preceding  days,  and  where  he  was  there  were  more 
bridges  and  breaks  in  the  causeway,  although  there  were 
fewer  roofs  than  in  the  other  directions. 

During  all  this  time  the  natives  of  Iztapalapa,  Oichilo- 
buzco,  Culuacan,  Mezquique,  and  Cuitaguaca,  which  as 
Defection  *  nave  sa^  are  on  the  fresh-water  lake,  would 
of  the  never  seek  peace,  nor  had  we  all  this  time 

Mexican's  sustained  any  injury  from  them;  and  as  the 
Calcans  were  very  loyal  vassals  of  Your  Ma- 
jesty, and  saw  that  we  had  enough  to  do  with  those 
of  the  great  city,  they  joined  with  other  towns  on  the 
borders  of  the  lake,  to  do  all  the  damage  they  could  to 
those  towns  on  the  water.  Seeing  we  were  daily  vic- 
torious over  those  of  Temixtitan,  and  on  account  of  the 
injury  they  were  sustaining  and  might  sustain  from  our 
friends,  these  rebellious  natives  determined  to  come; 
and  they  arrived  in  our  camp  and  besought  me  to  pardon 
them  the  past,  and  to  order  the  Calcans  and  their  other 
neighbours  to  do  them  no  further  injury. *      I  told  them 

1  The  perfidy  of  these  people  dealt  a  terrible  blow  to  Quanhte- 
motzin  and  the  defenders  of  Temixtitan,  for  to  their  defection  they 

Third  Letter  85 

I  was  pleased  with  this  and  harboured  no  anger  against 
any  except  those  of  the  city;  and  that  we  might  believe 
their  friendship  sincere,  I  prayed  them,  that  inasmuch  as 
I  was  determined  not  to  raise  the  siege  till  I  had  taken 
the  city  by  peace  or  war,  and  as  they  had  many  canoes 
capable  of  aiding  me,  they  should  prepare  everything 
they  could  with  as  many  warriors  as  were  in  their  towns, 
to  henceforward  aid  us  on  the  water.  I  also  prayed  them 
that  inasmuch  as  the  Spaniards  had  few  and  miserable 
huts,  and  it  was  the  rainy  season,  to  build  us  as  many 
houses  in  the  camp  as  they  could,  and  to  bring  adobes 
and  beams  from  the  houses  of  the  city  which  were  nearest 
to  the  camp.  They  answered  that  the  canoes  and 
warriors  were  prepared  every  day,  and  they  served  me  so 
well  in  building  the  houses,  that,  between  the  two  towers 
on  the  one  side  and  the  other  and  the  causeway  where  I 
was  lodged,  they  built  so  many  that  from  the  first  house 
to  the  last,  there  was  a  distance  of  three  or  four  bow- 
shots. Your  Majesty  may  see  how  broad  is  this  causeway, 
which  crosses  the  deepest  part  of  the  lake,  from  the  fact 
that  between  these  houses,  built  on  both  sides,  there  was 

added  treachery  of  the  blackest  complexion.  Their  chiefs  appeared 
before  the  Emperor  with  offers  of  assistance,  which  were  gratefully 
accepted  by  the  hard-pressed  sovereign.  Their  troops  were  assigned 
places,  and,  when  the  fighting  began,  made  a  feint  at  first  of  attacking 
the  Spanish  allies,  but  afterwards  suddenly  turned  their  arms  against 
the  Mexicans  who  were  of  course  taken  completely  by  surprise;  their 
chiefs  quickly  rallied,  however,  and  bringing  up  fresh  troops  the 
traitors  soon  got  the  worst  of  it,  and,  leaving  many  dead,  and  others 
prisoners,  the  remainder  fled  from  the  city.  The  prisoners  were  up- 
braided by  Macehuatzin,  lord  of  Cuitlahuac,  who  decapitated  four 
of  the  principal  ones  with  his  own  hand  and  delivered  the  others 
to  Quauhtemotzin,  who  ordered  them  to  be  sacrificed  in  the  temples 
of  Mexico  and  Tlatelolco  (Sahagun,  lib.  xii.,  cap.  xxxiv. ;  Torquemada, 
lib.  iv.,  cap.  cxiii.).  One  of  the  worst  effects  of  the  defection  of  the 
lake  towns  was  to  cut  off  the  supplies  of  fresh  water  and  food,  which, 
in  spite  of  the  vigilance  of  the  brigantines,  they  had  found  means  to 
transport  into  the  beleaguered  city.  Henceforth  hunger  was  added 
to  the  horrors  of  the  siege,  while  the  Spanish  camp  was  enriched  by 
supplies  of  fresh  provisions. 

86  Letters  of  Cortes 

ample  room  to  go  and  come  on  foot  and  horseback.  There 
were  constantly  in  the  camp,  between  Spaniards  and 
Indian  servants,  more  than  two  thousand  persons.  All 
the  warriors,  our  friends,  were  lodged  in  Cuyoacan,  a 
league  and  a  half  from  the  camp ;  and  the  people  of  these 
towns  likewise  supplied  us  with  provisions,  of  which  we 
stood  in  great  need;  especially  with  fish  and  cherries,  of 
which  there  is  such  a  quantity  about  here,  that,  during 
the  five  or  six  months  of  the  year  they  last,  they  are 
sufficient  for  double  the  inhabitants  of  the  country. 

As  we  on  our  side  had  entered  the  city  two  or  three 
days  successively,  besides  three  or  four  before,  and  had 
always  been  victorious  against  the  enemy  and  had  killed 
an  infinite  number,  with  our  field-pieces,  crossbows,  and 
muskets,  we  thought  that  any  hour  they  would  move  to 
propose  peace,  which  we  desired  as  our  own  salvation; 
but  nothing  availed  to  bring  them  to  this  determination. 
To  reduce  them  to  greater  straits,  and  to  see  if  they  could 
be  forced  to  make  peace,  I  decided  to  enter  the  city  each 
day  in  three  or  four  divisions.  I  therefore  ordered  all  the 
people  of  the  cities  situated  on  the  water,  to  come  in  their 
canoes,  so  that  day  there  were  in  our  camp  more  than 
a  hundred  thousand  men,  our  friends.  And  I  ordered 
the  four  brigantines,  with  half  the  canoes  (as  many  as 
fifteen  hundred)  to  go  on  one  side,  and  the  other  three, 
with  as  many  more  canoes,  to  go  on  another,  and  overrun 
the  greater  part  of  the  city  and  burn  and  do  all  the  damage 
they  could.  I  entered  by  the  principal  street  and  found 
it  all  free  up  to  the  large  houses  of  the  square,  none  of  the 
bridges  having  been  opened.  I  advanced  to  the  street 
which  leads  to  Tacuba,  where  there  were  six  or  seven 
bridges.  From  there,  I  ordered  a  captain  to  enter  another 
street,  with  sixty  or  seventy  men  and  six  horsemen  to 
protect  their  rear,  and  with  them  went  more  than  ten 
or  twelve  thousand  Indians,  our  friends;  and  I  ordered 
another  captain  to  do  the  same  in  another  street;  and  I, 

Third  Letter  87 

with  the  remaining  people,  advanced  on  the  street  to 
Tacuba.  We  captured  three  bridges  which  we  rilled 
up,  and,  because  it  was  already  late,  left  the  others  for 
another  day,  when  it  could  be  better  done,  for  I  wished 
to  occupy  that  street  so  that  the  people  of  Pedro  de 
Alvarado' s  camp  might  communicate  with  ours,  and  go 
from  one  camp  to  the  other,  and  the  brigantines  the  same. 
That  day  was  one  of  great  victory,  both  on  water  as  well 
as  land;  and  some  plunder  was  obtained  from  the  city. 
In  the  camps  of  the  alguacil  mayor  and  Pedro  de  Alvarado 
there  was  also  great  victory. 

The  next  day,  I  again  entered  the  city  in  the  same  order 
as  before,  and  God  gave  us  such  a  triumph  that,  in  the 
parts  where  I  penetrated,  there  seemed  to  be  Disastrous 
no  resistance  at  all,  and  the  enemy  retired  so  Operations 
rapidly  that  it  appeared  we  had  captured  of  Alvarado 
three-fourths  of  the  city.  The  division  of  Pedro 
de  Alvarado  also  attacked  them  briskly,  and,  un- 
doubtedly on  that  day  and  the  day  before,  I  was  posi- 
tive they  would  sue  for  peace,  in  favour  of  which,  with  or 
without  victory,  I  made  every  demonstration  I  could. 
Nevertheless,  we  saw  no  sign  of  peace  in  them,  and  we 
retired  that  day  to  our  camp,  very  gladly,  although  we 
were  grieved  to  our  very  hearts  to  see  their  determination 
to  die.  In  these  past  days,  Pedro  de  Alvarado  had  cap- 
tured many  bridges,  and,  in  order  to  hold  and  defend 
them,  he  placed  a  guard  of  foot  soldiers  and  horsemen  on 
them  throughout  the  night,  while  the  remainder  of  his 
people  returned  to  camp,  three-quarters  of  a  league  from 
there.  As  this  labour  was  unendurable,  he  determined 
to  move  his  camp  to  the  end  of  the  causeway  leading  to 
the  market  place  of  Temixtitan,  which  has  a  square  much 
larger  than  that  of  Salamanca,  all  surrounded  by  arcades, 
to  reach  which  it  was  necessary  to  capture  only  two  or 
three  more  bridges,  but  as  they  were  very  broad  and  dan- 
gerous, he  was  occupied  in  it  some  days,  during  which  he 

88  Letters  of  Cortes 

fought  constantly,  and  obtained  victory.  And  that  day 
of  which  I  spoke  in  the  past  chapter,  when  he  saw  the 
enemies  waver,  and  that  where  I  was  engaged  they  gave 
continual  and  stout  combats,  he  got  such  a  taste  of  victory 
with  the  bridges  and  barricades  he  had  captured,  that 
he  determined  to  pass  them,  and  capture  a  bridge  where 
they  had  destroyed  the  causeway  for  more  than  sixty 
paces,  and  where  the  water  had  entered  to  a  depth  of 
about  nine  feet;  and  as  the  attack  was  made  the  same 
day  and  the  brigantines  helped  so  much,  he  crossed  the 
water  and  captured  the  bridge  and  pursued  the  enemy 
who  fled.  Pedro  de  Alvarado  hastened  to  have  that 
pass  filled  so  that  the  horsemen  might  cross,  and  also  be- 
cause I  had  daily  admonished  him  by  writing  and  by 
word  of  mouth  not  to  gain  a  palm  of  ground  without  hav- 
ing the  exit  and  entrance  for  the  horsemen  absolutely 
assured,  as  they  in  reality  sustained  the  war.  When  the 
enemy  saw  there  were  only  forty  or  fifty  Spaniards  and 
some  of  our  friends  on  the  other  side,  and  that  the  horse- 
men could  not  cross,  they  turned  on  them  so  quickly  that 
they  drove  them  back  and  into  the  water,  where  they  cap- 
tured three  or  four  Spaniards  alive,  who  were  immediately 
sacrificed ;  and  they  killed  some  of  our  friends. ! 

1  Cortes  says  nothing  of  the  losses  suffered  by  the  Spaniards 
during  the  operations  of  these  days,  though  they  were  considerable 
enough  to  merit  notice.  The  Mexicans  had  arranged  a  clever  device 
for  capturing  the  brigantines,  which  was  partially  successful.  They 
stationed  thirty  of  their  largest  canoes,  full  of  warriors,  amongst  some 
rushes,  and  drove  a  number  of  stakes  into  the  bottom  of  the  lake  in 
such  wise  as  to  impede  the  movements  of  the  brigantines.  Some 
smaller  canoes,  such  as  usually  carried  supplies,  were  then  sent  into 
the  open,  where  they  were  quickly  discovered  by  the  Spaniards,  who 
gave  chase,  allowing  themselves  to  be  drawn  into  the  trap,  where  the 
stakes  interfered  with  their  movements.  The  captain  of  one  of  the 
brigantines,  Portillo,  was  killed,  and  Pedro  Barbo  was  mortally 
wounded;  many  others  were  wounded,  and  the  Mexicans  carried  off 
one  brigantine  in  triumph.  They  paid  dearly  for  this  victory,  for 
Cortes  was  so  much  mortified  by  this  disaster,  that  a  counter  ambus- 
cade was  prepared,  which  drew  the  Mexicans  successfully,  and  in  which 

Third  Letter  89 

Finally  Pedro  de  Alvarado  retired  to  his  camp,  and 
when  I  arrived  in  ours  that  day  and  learned  what  had 
happened,  it  caused  me  the  greatest  grief  in  the  world,  as 
this  was  an  event  to  encourage  the  enemy,  and  they  might 
think  that  we  would  not  again  dare  to  enter.  The  reason 
why  Pedro  de  Alvarado  wished  to  take  the  bad  pass,  was, 
as  I  say,  because  he  had  overcome  a  great  part  of  the 
Indians'  force,  and  they  showed  some  weakness,  and 
chiefly  because  his  people  importuned  him  to  capture  the 
market-place;  for,  having  gained  that,  almost  the  entire 
city  would  be  taken,  as  all  the  forces  and  hopes  of  the 
Indians  centred  there :  and,  as  Alvarado' s  men  saw  that 
I  stoutly  continued  to  combat  the  Indians,  they  feared 

they  suffered  severe  loss  of  many  canoes,  a  number  of  slain,  and  others 
prisoners.  The  Aztecs  had  one  formidable  warrior  of  giant  stature, 
called  Tzilacatzin,  who  was  wonderfully  skilful  with  his  sling,  every 
stone  he  sent  bringing  down  its  man.  He  was  made  the  aim  of  all 
the  Spanish  archers,  and  musketeers,  his  great  stature  making  him 
easily  distinguishable,  but  they  could  never  hit  him.  On  one  of  these 
days  eighteen  Spaniards  were  captured  alive  and  sacrificed,  their 
bodies  being  afterwards  cut  up  and  distributed  to  be  eaten.  Another 
day  a  furious  assault  led  by  a  daring  warrior  of  Tlatelolco  called 
Tlapanecatl,  almost  succeeded  in  capturing  the  ensign  Corral  who 
carried  the  Spanish  standard,  and  did  carry  off  no  less  than  fifty-three 
Castilian  prisoners,  besides  numerous  of  the  allies,  and  four  horses 
all  of  whom  were  sacrificed  in  the  various  temples.  In  the  rout  of 
Alvarado,  which  Cortes  here  briefly  mentions,  but  which  was  a  com- 
plete disaster,  five  more  Spaniards  were  taken  alive,  besides  many 
Indian  prisoners;  a  horseman  and  his  horse  were  drowned,  and  the 
survivors,  all  badly  wounded,  and  utterly  demoralised,  drew  off  to 
their  camp  amidst  the  victorious  shouts  of  the  Mexicans.  The  latter 
followed  up  to  the  very  camp,  but  were  repulsed  with  loss  by  a  small 
battery  stationed  there,  which  was  worked  by  an  able  engineer,  named 
Medrano.  The  guns  were  so  placed  that  they  raked  the  entire  cause- 
way, and  as  the  brigantines  used  their  guns  on  both  sides,  the  camp 
was  effectively  protected  (Bernal  Diaz,  cap.  cii.;  Sahagun,  lib.  xii., 
cap.  xxxvi.;  Torquemada,  lib.  iv.,  cap.  xciii.).  Alvarado  was  an 
intrepid  commander,  and,  nothing  daunted  by  his  repulse,  he 
continued  for  four  days  to  renew  his  attack  at  the  same  point,  until, 
on  Friday,  June  28th,  he  finally  captured  the  bridge.  Six  more 
Spaniards  perished  in  these  combats,  besides  the  wounded  and  allies 
whose  dead  were  unnumbered. 

90  Letters  of  Cortes 

that  I  might  capture  the  market  place  before  they  did, 
and  as  they  were  nearer  to  it  than  we,  they  held  it  as  a 
point  of  honour  to  take  it  first.  For  this  reason  the  said 
Pedro  de  Alvarado  was  much  importuned,  and  the  same 
happened  to  me  in  our  camp,  for  all  the  Spaniards  eagerly 
besought  me  to  enter  by  one  of  the  three  streets  lead- 
ing to  the  market-place,  for  we  found  little  resistance, 
and  that  once  captured  we  would  have  less  hardship.  I 
alleged  every  possible  reason  for  not  doing  it,  although 
I  concealed  the  real  cause,  which  was  the  inconvenience 
and  dangers  which  presented  themselves  to  me;  for  in 
order  to  reach  the  market-place,  there  were  infinite  roofs 
and  bridges  and  broken  causeways,  so  that  each  house 
by  which  we  had  to  pass,  was  converted  into  an  island 
surrounded  by  water. 

When  I  learned,  that  afternoon  upon  reaching  the 
camp,  of  Pedro  de  Alvarado's  disaster,  I  determined  to 
go  to  his  camp  the  next  morning,  to  rebuke  him  for  what 
had  happened,  and  to  see  what  had  been  accomplished, 
and  where  he  had  moved  his  camp,  and  to  advise  him  as 
to  his  security,  and  for  the  attack  on  the  enemy.  I  was 
undoubtedly  astonished,  when  I  reached  his  camp,  to 
see  how  far  towards  the  middle  of  the  city  it  was,  and  the 
bad  places  and  bridges  he  had  taken,  so  that  I  no 
longer  blamed  him  so  much  as  he  had  seemed  to  deserve ; 
having  talked  with  him,  therefore,  about  what  he  should 
do,  I  returned  that  day  to  our  camp. 

This  finished,  I  effected  several  entries  into  the  city  at 
the  usual  points,  and  the  brigantines  and  canoes  fought 
Impatience  m  two  places,  and  I  in  four  others  within  the 
of  Cortes's  city,  and  we  always  obtained  the  victory,  and 
Division  many  of  the  adversaries  were  killed  because 
numberless  people  daily  returned  in  our  favour.  I 
hesitated  to  penetrate  farther  into  the  city,  on  the 
one  hand  that  our  enemies  might  reconsider  their  de- 
termination and  stubbornness,  and  on  the  other  because 

Third  Letter  91 

our  entrance  could  not  be  effected  without  great  dan- 
ger, as  they  were  very  united,  strong,  and  desperate 
unto  death.  As  the  Spaniards  observed  such  delay, 
and  that  for  more  than  twenty  days  they  had  never 
ceased  righting,  they  importuned  me,  in  such  manner  as 
I  have  heretofore  stated,  to  enter  and  take  the  market- 
place, because,  having  gained  that,  the  enemy  would  have 
little  space  left  to  them  from  which  to  defend  themselves, 
and,  if  they  did  not  surrender,  they  would  die  from  hunger 
and  thirst,  having  no  water  to  drink  save  the  salt  water  of 
the  lake.  When  I  excused  myself,  the  treasurer  of  Your 
Majesty  told  me  that  the  entire  camp  insisted  upon  it,  and 
that  I  ought  to  do  it.  I  answered  him  and  other  persons 
who  were  in  favour  of  this  plan,  that  their  object  and 
wish  were  excellent,  and  that  I  desired,  to  do  it  more  than 
anybody  else,  but  that  I  refrained  for  the  reason  his 
importunity  forced  me  to  say;  which  was  that,  although 
he  and  others  approved  of  it,  there  might  be  others  who, 
on  account  of  the  great  danger  would  not.  And  finally, 
they  forced  me  so  much  that  I  agreed  to  do  what  I  could, 
after  first  consulting  the  people  of  the  other  camps. 

The  next  day  I  conferred  with  some  of  the  principal  per- 
sons of  our  camp,  and  we  agreed  to  notify  the  alguacil 
mayor  and  Pedro  de  Alvarado  that  we  would  enter  the  city 
on  the  following  day,  and  make  an  effort  to  reach  the 
market-place,  and  I  wrote  to  them  what  they  were  to  do 
on  the  Tacuba  side,  and,  besides  writing,  I  sent  two  of  my 
servants  to  explain  the  whole  business,  that  they  might 
be  better  informed.  The  course  they  were  to  follow  was 
this:  The  alguacil  mayor  was  to  come,  with  ten  horse- 
men, one  hundred  foot  soldiers,  and  fifteen  musketeers, 
to  Pedro  de  Alvarado' s  camp,  leaving  in  his  own  camp  ten 
other  horsemen,  with  whom  he  should  arrange  that  they 
were  to  lie  in  ambush  behind  some  houses  at  the  hour 
of  the  next  day's  battle;  and  that  he  should  remove 
all  his  baggage  as  though  he  were  breaking  up  his  camp, 

92  Letters  of  Cortes 

so  that  when  the  enemy  came  in  pursuit,  those  in 
ambush  would  fall  upon  their  rear.  The  said  alguacil 
mayor  with  his  three  brigantines  and  the  three  of  Pedro 
de  Alvarado  were  to  take  that  bad  pass,  where  Pedro  de 
Alvarado  had  been  routed,  filling  it  up  quickly,  and  in 
marching  forward  they  were  not  to  advance  one  step 
without  having  first  filled  it  up  and  repaired  it;  and,  if 
they  could  advance  to  the  market-place  without  any  great 
risk  or  danger,  they  were  to  make  every  effort  to  do  so, 
as  I  would  do  the  same;  and  they  were  to  note  well  that, 
although  I  sent  to  say  this,  I  did  not  oblige  them  to  ad- 
vance a  single  step  which  might  expose  them  to  any  defeat 
or  mishap,  and  that  I  communicated  this  to  them  because 
I  knew  them,  and  that  they  would  put  their  face  to  what 
I  ordered  them,  even  though  they  knew  that  by  it  they 
might  lose  their  lives.  My  two  servants  went  to  the  camp 
and  met  the  said  alguacil  mayor  and  Pedro  de  Alvarado 
there  to  whom  they  stated  the  case  as  we  had  agreed  here 
in  our  camp.  As  they  had  to  fight  in  one  place  only,  and  I 
in  many,  I  had  asked  them  to  send  me  seventy  or  eighty 
foot  soldiers  who  would  enter  with  me  next  day;  these 
came  with  my  two  servants  and  all  slept  that  night  in  my 
camp  according  to  the  orders  which  I  had  sent  them. 

This  order  given,  the  next  day,  after  having  heard  mass, 
the   seven   brigantines  with  more   than   three  hundred 

canoes  of  our  friends,  left  our  camp,   and  I, 
The  Attack 
on  the         with   twenty-five  horsemen,   my   people,   and 

Market-  the  seventy  men  from  the  camp  of  Tacuba, 
place  began  our  march  and  entered  the  city,  where 

I  divided  them  in  this  manner:  From  the  point  we 
had  already  reached,  three  streets  led  to  the  market- 
place, which  the  Indians  called  Tianguizco, l  and  into  the 
principal  one,  leading  to  the  said  market-place,  I  told 
Your  Majesty's  treasurer  and  accountant  [Julian  de  Al- 
derete]  to  enter,  with  seventy  men  and  more  than  fifteen 

1  Tianguiz  or  Tianquiztli  is  the  Mexican  word  for  market. 

Third  Letter  93 

or  twenty  thousand  of  our  friends,  and  that  in  his  rear  he 
should  take  seven  horsemen;  and  that  as  they  captured 
the  bridges  and  barricades  they  should  be  filled  up;  and 
they  took  a  dozen  men  with  picks  in  addition  to  our 
friends,  who  were  most  useful  for  the  purpose  of  rilling  up 
the  bridges.  Two  other  streets  lead  from  the  streets  of 
Tacuba  to  the  market-place  and  are  narrower,  having 
more  causeways,  bridges,  and  water  streets,  and  I  ordered 
two  captains  to  enter  by  the  broadest  of  them,  with  eighty 
men  and  more  than  ten  thousand  Indians,  our  friends,  and, 
at  the  mouth  of  that  street  of  Tacuba,  I  placed  two 
heavy  field  pieces  with  eight  horsemen  to  guard  them. 
With  eight  other  horsemen  and  one  hundred  foot  soldiers, 
amongst  whom  were  more  than  twenty-five  archers  and 
musketeers,  and  with  an  infinite  number  of  our  friends,  I 
pursued  my  road,  penetrating  by  the  other  narrow  street 
as  far  as  possible. 

I  halted  the  horsemen  at  the  entrance  of  it,  and  ordered 
them  on  no  account  to  advance  from  there,  nor  to  follow 
after  me  unless  I  first  ordered  them  to  do  so.  I  then  dis- 
mounted and  we  arrived  at  a  barricade  they  had  made 
at  the  end  of  a  bridge,  which  we  took  with  a  small  field 
piece,  the  archers  and  musketeers  advancing  by  a  cause- 
way, which  the  enemy  had  broken  at  two  or  three  different 
places.  Besides  these  three  combats  we  waged,  our 
friends  who  entered  by  the  roofs  and  other  places  were 
so  numerous  that  it  did  not  seem  that  anything  could 
resist  us.  When  the  Spaniards  took  those  two  bridges, 
the  barricades,  and  the  causeway,  our  friends  advanced 
by  the  street  without  taking  any  spoils,  while  I  re- 
mained with  about  twenty  Spaniards  on  a  small  island. 
I  observed  that  certain  of  our  friends  were  engaged 
with  the  enemy,  who  sometimes  would  repel  them,  driv- 
ing them  into  the  water,  but  with  our  assistance  they 
would  turn  again  upon  them.  Besides  this  we  took  care 
that  from  certain  cross  streets  those  of  the  city  should 

94  Letters  of  Cortes 

not  sally  out  to  take  at  their  backs  the  Spaniards,  who 
were  advancing  along  the  street. 

They  sent  to  tell  me  at  this  time  that  they  had  advanced 
much  and  were  not  very  far  from  the  market-place,  and 
in  any  case  they  wished  to  push  on  because  they  already 
heard  the  combat  which  the  alguacil  mayor  and  Pedro 
de  Alvarado  were  waging  on  their  side.  I  sent  orders 
that  they  should  on  no  account  advance  a  step  without 
leaving  the  bridges  well  filled  up,  so  that,  if  they  needed 
to  retreat,  the  water  would  be  no  obstacle  or  embarrass- 
ment, for  therein  lay  the  danger;  and  they  returned  to 
tell  me  that  all  they  had  gained  were  well  repaired  and  I 
might  go  myself  and  see  if  it  was  so.  Dreading  that  they 
might  go  astray,  and  commit  blunders  respecting  the  fill- 
ing up  of  the  ditches,  I  went  thither,  and  found  that  they 
had  passed  over  a  ditch  in  the  street  which  was  ten  paces 
broad,  with  water  flowing  through  it  ten  feet  in  depth, 
and  that  in  passing  they  had  thrown  wood  and  maize  and 
reed  grass  into  it ;  as  they  had  passed  few  at  a  time  and 
with  care,  the  wood  and  maize  had  not  sunk,  and  they, 
in  the  joy  of  victory,  were  going  ahead  so  recklessly  that 
they  believed  the  work  had  been  very  thoroughly  done. 
The  moment  I  reached  that  wretched  bridge,  I  saw  the 
Spaniards  and  many  of  our  friends  returning  in  full  flight, 
and  the  enemy  like  dogs  setting  on  them;  and,  seeing  the 
impending  mishap,  I  began  to  cry,  Stop!  Stop!  but  when  I 
arrived  at  the  water  I  found  it  full  of  Spaniards  and  In- 
dians as  though  not  one  straw  had  been  put  into  it.  The 
enemy  charged  so  furiously,  killing  amongst  the  Spaniards, 
that  they  threw  themselves  into  the  water  with  them, 
and  their  canoes  came  by  the  water  streets  and  captured 
the  Spaniards  alive.  As  the  affair  came  about  so  sud- 
denly, and  I  saw  the  people  being  killed,  I  determined  to 
remain  there  and  die  fighting;  and  the  most  that  I  and 
my  men  could  do  was  to  lend  our  hands  to  some  unlucky 
Spaniards  who  were  drowning  and  help  them  out;  and 

Third  Letter  95 

some  came  out  wounded  and  others  half  drowned  and 
others  without  weapons.  I  sent  them  on  ahead.  Such 
was  the  number  of  the  enemy  that  they  surrounded  me 
and  some  other  ten  or  fifteen  who  had  remained  with  me. 

Being  entirely  occupied  in  helping  those  who  were 
drowning,  I  had  not  observed  or  thought  of  my  own  dan- 
ger, and  already  certain  Indians  had  grasped  Perilous 
me  and  would  have  carried  me  away  had  it  Position  of 
not  been  for  a  captain  of  fifty  whom  I  always  Cortes 
had  with  me,  and  another  youth  of  my  company, 
who,  after  God,  gave  me  my  life,  and,  in  giving  it 
me,  as  a  valiant  man  he  there  lost  his  own.  Mean- 
while, the  Spaniards  who  had  been  routed  were  retreat- 
ing by  the  causeway,  and  as  it  was  small,  and  narrow, 
and  on  a  level  with  the  water  which  those  dogs  had  inten- 
tionally prepared  in  this  manner,  and  as  many  of  our  own 
friends,  who  had  also  been  routed,  were  also  going  by  it, 
the  road  was  so  encumbered,  and  there  was  such  a  delay 
in  advancing,  that  the  enemy  had  time  to  come  up  from 
both  sides  and  take  and  kill  as  many  as  they  chose.  And 
that  captain  who  was  with  me,  called  Antonio  de  Qui- 
nomes,  said  to  me,  "  Let  us  go  away  from  here  and  save 
yourself,  as  you  know  that  without  you  none  of  us  can 
escape";  but  seeing  that  he  could  not  prevail  upon  me 
to  go,  he  grasped  me  by  the  arms,  to  force  me  to 
retire.  Although  I  would  have  rejoiced  more  in  death 
than  in  life,  by  the  importunity  of  that  and  of  my  other 
companions,  we  began  to  withdraw,  fighting  with  our 
swords  and  bucklers  against  the  enemy,  who  surrounded 
us.  At  this  moment  a  servant  of  mine  rode  up  on  horse- 
back and  cleared  a  little  space,  but  immediately  a  lance 
thrown  from  a  low  roof  struck  him  in  the  throat,  and 
overthrew  him. 

In  the  midst  of  this  great  conflict,  waiting  for  the 
people  to  pass  that  small  causeway  and  reach  safety 
while  we  held  back  the  enemy,  a  servant  of  mine   ar- 

96  Letters  of  Cortes 

rived  with  a  horse  for  me  to  mount,  because  such  was 
the  quantity  of  mud  on  that  small  causeway,  brought 
there  by  those  who  fell  in  and  climbed  out  of  the  water, 
that  no  one  could  keep  his  feet,  especially  on  account 
of  the  jostling  of  one  another  in  trying  to  save  them- 
selves. I  mounted,  but  not  to  fight,  because  it  was 
impossible  on  horseback;  for,  could  it  have  been  done, 
those  eight  horsemen  whom  I  had  left  on  a  small  island 
at  the  beginning  of  the  causeway  would  have  been  there, 
but  they  could  not  do  other  than  go  back  by  it,  and  even 
the  return  was  so  perilous  that  two  mares  mounted  by 
my  servants  fell  from  the  causeway  into  the  water,  one 
of  whom  the  Indians  killed  and  the  other  some  of  our  sol- 
diers saved.  Another  young  servant  of  mine  called  Cris- 
tobal de  Guzman  mounted  a  horse,  which  was  given  to 
him  at  the  small  island  to  bring  to  me  to  save  me,  and  he 
and  the  horse  were  killed  by  the  enemy  before  they 
reached  me;  his  death  filled  the  whole  camp  with  such 
sadness  that  the  sorrow  of  those  who  knew  him  is  still 
fresh  to-day.  Finally  it  pleased  God  that,  after  all  our 
troubles,  those  who  were  left  should  reach  the  street 
of  Tacuba,  which  is  very  broad,  and,  having  collected 
the  people,  I,  with  my  horsemen,  stopped  in  the  rear, 
where  the  enemy  were  charging  with  such  triumph  and 
pride  that  it  seemed  that  they  would  leave  nobody  alive. 
Retiring  as  best  I  could,  I  sent  word  to  the  treasurer  and 
accountant  to  retreat  to  the  square  in  good  order.  I  sent 
the  same  order  to  the  other  two  captains  who  had  entered 
by  the  street  leading  to  the  market,  both  of  whom  had 
fought  valiantly  and  captured  many  barricades  and  bridges 
which  they  completely  filled  up,  from  which  cause  they 
were  able  to  retreat  without  injury.  Before  the  treasurer 
and  accountant  retired  from  the  breastwork  where  they 
were  fighting,  those  of  the  city  had  already  thrown  two 
or  three  heads  of  Christians  at  them,  although  then  they 
did  not  know  whether  they  came  from  Pedro  de  Alvarado's 

Third  Letter  97 

camp  or  from  ours.  And  we  all  gathered  in  the  square, 
so  many  of  the  enemy  charging  on  us  from  every  side 
that  we  had  enough  to  do  to  keep  them  off,  and  even 
in  places  where  before  this  rout  they  would  never  have 
dared  to  come,  they  killed  three  horsemen  and  ten  soldiers. 
Immediately  after,  in  one  of  the  towers  of  their  idols 
which  was  near  the  square,  they  offered  many  perfumes  and 
incense  of  gums  which  they  use  in  this  country,  very  much 
like  anime,  offering  them  up  to  their  idols  in  sign  of  vic- 
tory ;  and  even  if  we  had  wanted  to  stop  this  it  could  not 
be  done,  as  almost  all  the  people  were  already  hasten- 
ing towards  the  camp.  In  this  rout,  the  adversary  killed 
thirty-five  or  forty  Spaniards  and  more  than  one  thousand 
Indians,  our  friends,  and  wounded  more  than  twenty  Chris- 
tians; and  I  came  out  wounded  in  one  leg.  A  small  field 
piece  was  lost  and  many  crossbows,  muskets,  and  arms. 1 

i  This  was  the  last  victorious  day  for  the  Mexicans,  and  wit- 
nessed their  culminating  effort  against  their  foes.  Quauhtemotzin 
was  everywhere  present  amongst  his  troops,  urging  them  to  a  supreme 
struggle,  and  sounding  his  trumpet  of  conch-shell,  "upon  hearing 
which  signal"  Bernal  Diaz  says,  "it  is  impossible  to  describe  the  fury 
with  which  they  closed  upon  us"  (cap.  ciii.).  Dominating  the  shouts 
of  "Santiago!"  the  screams  of  the  wounded,  the  crash  of  arms,  and 
the  fierce  war-cries  of  the  Mexicans,  was  heard  the  lugubrious  roll  of 
the  sacred  Tlapankuekuetl  of  serpents'  skins  which  the  priests  beat  with 
inspired  frenzy  before  the  war-god  on  the  teocalli.  Cortes  again  owed 
his  escape  from  instant  death  to  the  determination  which  obsessed 
the  Mexicans  to  take  him  alive  for  the  sacrifice.  His  rescuer  was  the 
same  Cristobal  de  Olea  who  had  once  before  come  to  his  aid  in  a  moment 
of  peril  at  Xochimilco ;  with  one  blow  of  his  sword  he  cut  off  the  arm 
of  the  warrior  who  held  the  general,  falling  dead  himself  the  next 

Bernal  Diaz  says  that  Olea  slew  four  chiefs  before  he  himself  fell 
(loco  citato). 

Seven  horses  were  killed,  seventy  Spaniards  were  captured  alive, 
Cortes  was  badly  wounded  in  the  leg;  Sandoval  likewise  in  three 
places  and  both  his  division  and  that  of  Alvarado  suffered  serious 
reverses.  When  an  account  came  to  be  taken  of  the  extent  of  the 
disaster,  dismay  filled  the  sinking  hearts  of  the  Spaniards,  and  the 
Indian  allies  began  to  doubt  the  power  of  the  teules  and  to  ask 
themselves  whether  they  were  not  after  all  fighting  on  the  wrong  side. 

Cortes  threw  the  blame  for  this  catastrophe  on  Alderete,  who  had  dis- 

VOL.  II.— 7 

98  Letters  of  Cortes 

Immediately  after  obtaining  this  victory,  the  defenders 
of  the  city,  in  order  to  frighten  the  alguacil  mayor  and 
Sacrifice  of  Pedro  de  Alvarado,  took  all  the  living  and 
the  Spanish  dead  Spaniards  whom  they  had  captured,  to 
Captives  Tlaltelulco,  which  is  the  market,  and,  in  some 
lofty  towers  there,  they  stripped  them  and  sacrificed 
them,  opening  their  breasts  and  taking  out  their  hearts 
to  offer  them  to  the  idols.  This  the  Spaniards  in 
Pedro  de  Alvarado' s  camp  could  see  from  where  they 
were  fighting,  and  in  the  naked  white  bodies  which  they 
saw  sacrificed  they  recognised  that  they  were  Chris- 
tians; and,  although  they  were  saddened  and  dismayed 

obeyed  his  order  never  to  advance  without  first  securing  his  retreat. 
Alderete  denied  that  he  had  ever  had  any  such  order,  and  declared 
that  it  was  Cortes  who  had  urged  the  troops  forward.  Recrim- 
inations and  censures  were  thus  exchanged,  for  naturally  nobody 
would  accept  responsibility  for  such  a  calamity;  it  appears  certain 
that  Cortes  had  not  been  in  favour  of  the  assault,  but  had  allowed 
his  better  judgment  to  be  overruled  by  his  companions,  who  were 
weary  of  the  daily  fighting,  and  thought  they  could  storm  the 
Tlateloco  market-place,  and  so  end  the  siege. 

While  gloom  reigned  in  the  Spanish  camp,  there  was  exultation 
amongst  the  Mexicans  whose  waning  hopes  of  victory  were  revived 
by  their  success.  The  priests  proclaimed  that  the  war-god  was 
appeased  by  the  savour  of  so  many  Spanish  victims  and  within  eight 
days  would  give  his  faithful  a  complete  victory  over  the  impious 
invaders.  This  oracle  was  published  amongst  the  allies,  and  shook 
their  wavering  faith  in  the  Spaniards;  they  saw  that  the  city  stub- 
bornly held  out,  they  perceived  that  the  strangers  were  neither  in- 
vincible nor  immortal,  and,  as  the  ancient  superstitious  fear  of  their 
gods  reasserted  itself,  tens  of  thousands  quietly  detached  themselves 
from  the  Spanish  camp  and  marched  off  homewards.  Cortes  used 
every  effort  to  hold  them  and  urged  that  they  should  at  least  wait 
eight  days  and  see  whether  the  prophecy  was  fulfilled  before  deciding 
against  him.  The  Tlascalan  general,  Chichimecatecle,  and  Prince 
Ixtlilxochitl  of  Texcoco  remained  steadfast  to  their  sworn  allegiance. 
The  latter  was  naturally  an  object  of  peculiar  hatred  to  the  Mexicans, 
who  reviled  him,  and  heaped  imprecations  on  him  as  a  renegade  from 
his  race,  and  a  traitor  to  his  country.  If  he  felt  these  taunts,  he  did 
not  betray  his  feelings,  but  day  after  day  joined  in  the  scenes  of 
carnage,  facing  both  danger  and  obloquy  unmoved.  For  five  days 
there  was  some  respite,  the  Spaniards  nursing  their  wounds  and  pre- 

Third  Letter  99 

by  this,  they  retreated  into  their  camp,  having  fought 
very  well  that  day  and  arrived  almost  to  the  market-place 
which  would  have  been  won  that  day  if  God,  on  account 
of  our  sins,  had  not  permitted  so  great  a  misfortune.  We 
returned  to  our  camp  sadly,  somewhat  earlier  than  we 
were  accustomed  to  on  other  days ;  also  because  we  heard 
the  brigantines  were  lost  as  the  Mexicans  had  fallen  on 
our  rear  with  the  canoes,  though  it  pleased  God  that  this 
should  not  be  true.  The  brigantines  and  canoes  of  our 
friends  had  indeed  fotxnd  themselves  in  tight  straits; 
so  much  so  that  a  brigantine  was  almost  lost,  and  the 

paring  for  a  resumption  of  hostilities,  while  the  Mexicans  were  en- 
gaged in  making  overtures  to  win  back  their  faithless  subjects  and 

The  situation  of  the  Spaniards  was  well-nigh  desperate,  but  that  of 
the  Mexicans  was  hardly  better,  for  famine  stalked  their  streets, 
claiming  as  many  victims  as  the  Spanish  cannon,  and  terribly  weak- 
ening the  defenders  of  the  city.  The  besiegers  tenaciously  held  their 
position  on  the  causeways,  and,  aided  by  the  brigantines,  on  the  lakes, 
were  unceasingly  vigilant  in  maintaining  the  blockade. 

Throughout  the  siege  there  were  a  few  Spanish  women — some  of 
them  described  as  "wives"  of  the  soldiers — in  camp,  who  displayed 
scarcely  less  courage  than  the  men,  for,  not  only  did  they  occupy  them- 
selves in  the  nursing  which  is  women's  natural  function  in  wartime, 
but  they  even  mounted  guard  to  relieve  the  weary  soldiers,  who 
needed  rest;  and  instances  are  given  of  their  joining  in  the  actual 
fighting.  Cortes  had  intended  leaving  all  these  women  at  Tlascala, 
but  his  proposed  order  to  that  effect  aroused  such  opposition,  es- 
pecially among  the  women  themselves  who  declared  that  Castilian 
wives,  rather  than  abandon  their  husbands  in  danger,  would  die  with 
them,  that  it  was  never  given.  Little  has  been  said  of  the  courage  and 
devotion  of  these  obscure  heroines,  but  Herrera  has  recorded  the 
names  of  five,  Beatriz  de  Palacios,  Maria  de  Estrada,  Juana  Martin, 
Isabel  Rodriguez,  and  Beatriz  Bermudez,  as  meriting  honorable 
mention  in  the  annals  of  the  conquest. 

The  eight  days  appointed  by  the  priests  for  the  destruction  of  the 
besiegers  expired,  and  the  prophecy  remained  unfulfilled;  seeing  which 
the  vacillating  allies  returned  to  the  Spanish  camp  in  large  numbers 
where  the  politic  general  received  them  with  his  customary  imper- 
turbable urbanity,  and,  after  reproaching  them  for  their  faithless 
desertion  in  a  panic  of  foolish  superstition,  declared  that  he  pardoned 
their  fault  and  accepted  them  once  more  as  vassals  of  Spain,  and  his 

ioo  Letters  of  Cortes 

captain  and  the  master  were  both  wounded,  the  captain 
dying  within  eight  days. 

That  day,  and  the  following  night,  the  people  of  the  city 
rejoiced  greatly  with  trumpets  and  kettle-drums  so  that 
it  seemed  the  very  world  was  sinking,  and  they  opened 
all  the  streets  and  bridges  over  the  water,  as  they  had 
them  before,  and  lighted  fires,  and  placed  night  watchmen 
at  a  distance  of  two  bow-shots  from  our  camp ;  for,  as  we 
were  all  so  disordered,  and  wounded,  and  without  arms, 
we  needed  to  rest  and  recuperate  ourselves.  Meanwhile 
the  enemy  had  time  to  send  their  messengers  to  many 
provinces  subject  to  them,  telling  them  how  they  had  ob- 
tained a  great  victory  and  killed  many  Christians,  and 
that  they  would  soon  finish  all  of  us,  and  that  by  no  means 
would  they  sue  for  peace  with  us;  and  the  proofs  they 
carried  were  the  heads  of  the  two  horses  and  some  of 
those  Christians  they  had  killed,  carrying  them  about,  and 
showing  them  wherever  it  seemed  useful,  which  confirmed 
the  rebels  more  than  ever  in  their  stubbornness.  How- 
ever, lest  they  should  become  too  proud  and  divine  our 
weakness,  some  Spaniards  on  foot  and  on  horseback,  with 
many  of  our  friends,  would  go  into  the  city  to  fight  every 
day,  albeit  they  never  could  gain  more  than  some  of 
the  bridges  of  the  next  street  before  reaching  the  square. 

Two  days  after  our  rout,  which  was  already  known  in 
all  the  neighbourhood,  the  natives  of  a  town  called  Cuar- 
naguacar  [Cuernavaca],  who  had  been  subject  to  the  city 
but  had  given  themselves  for  our  friends,  came  to  the 
camp  and  told  me  that  the  people  of  Marinalco,  * 
their  neighbours  did  them  much  injury  and  destroyed 
their  fields,  and  that  they  also  had  joined  with  the 
large  province  of  Cuisco,2  and  intended  to  attack 
them  and  kill  them  because  they  had  given  themselves 
as  vassals  of  Your  Majesty,  and  our  friends;  once  the  peo- 

1  Malinalco. 

2  Probably  Huisuco. 

Third  Letter  101 

pie  of  Cuarnaguacar  were  destroyed,  their  enemies  would 
then  come  against  us.  Although  what  had  passed 
was  still  so  recent,  and  we  were  rather  needing  to 
receive  than  to  give  help,  since  they  asked  it  of  me  with 
such  urgency,  I  determined  to  give  it  to  them,  although 
I  encountered  much  opposition,  and  it  was  said  that  in 
taking  people  from  our  camp  I  was  destroying  myself. 
I  dispatched  eighty  foot  soldiers  and  ten  horsemen  under 
Captain  Andres  de  Tapia  with  those  who  had  come  to 
ask  our  aid,  charging  him  earnestly  to  do  whatever  was 
required  for  Your  Majesty's  service  and  for  our  secur- 
ity; as  he  saw  the  need  in  which  we  were,  he  should 
spend  not  more  than  ten  days  in  going  and  coming. 
He  left,  and  reached  a  small  town  between  Marinalco 
and  Coadnoacad, !  where  he  found  the  enemy  expecting 
him;  and  he,  with  the  people  of  Coadnoacad  and  those 
he  had  with  him,  began  his  battle  on  the  field,  and  our 
forces  fought  so  well  that  they  routed  the  enemy,  pur- 
suing them  until  they  reached  Marinalco,  which  is  situated 
on  a  very  high  hill  where  the  horsemen  could  not  approach. 
Seeing  this,  they  destroyed  that  part  which  is  in  the 
plain,  and  returned  to  our  camp  within  the  ten  days. 
In  the  upper  part  of  this  town  of  Marinalco,  there 
are  many  fountains  of  excellent  water,  a  very  refreshing 

While  this  captain  was  absent,  some  Spaniards  on 
foot  and  on  horseback  entered  with  our  friends  into  the 
city  as  far  as  the  large  houses  which  are  on  the  square, 
to  fight,  as  I  have  already  said ;  they  could  not  advance 
further  because  the  enemy  had  opened  the  water  street 
which  is  at  the  entrance  of  the  square  and  is  very  broad 
and  deep ;  and,  on  the  other  side,  there  was  a  very  large 
and  strong  entrenchment,  where  they  fought  with  one 
another  until  night  separated  them. 

A  chief  of  the  province  of  Tascaltecal,  called  Chichi- 

i  Cuernavaca  again  though  Cortes  varies  his  incorrect  spelling. 

102  Letters  of  Cortes 

mecatecle,  of  whom  I  have  heretofore  written  that  he 
had  bought  the  timbers  that  had  been  prepared  in 
Exploits  of  tnat  province  for  the  brigantines,  had  resided 
Chicheme-  with  his  people,  since  the  beginning  of  the 
catl  war>   m    the    Camp   of    Pedro    de    Alvarado; 

and  when  he  saw,  after  the  preceding  rout,  that  the 
Spaniards  did  not  right  as  before,  he  determined  to 
make  an  entrance  with  only  his  own  people.  Leaving 
four  hundred  of  his  bowmen  at  a  dangerous  broken 
bridge  he  had  taken,  (which  had  never  before  happened 
without  our  aid),  he  and  his  people  advanced  with  great 
shouts,  cheering  and  naming  their  province  and  lord. 
They  fought  very  bravely  that  day  and  there  were  many 
wounded  and  dead  on  both  sides;  and  those  of  the  city 
believed  that  they  had  trapped  them  because  it  is  their 
custom,  when  their  adversaries  retire,  to  follow  them 
with  much  persistence,  although  it  be  without  chance 
of  victory,  believing  that  in  crossing  the  water,  where  it 
sometimes  happens  there  is  a  certain  danger,  they  may 
take  revenge  on  them.  To  forestall  this  danger  and  to 
provide  help,  Chichimecatecle  had  left  four  hundred  bow- 
men at  the  water  pass,  and,  while  his  men  were  retiring, 
those  of  the  city  suddenly  charged  them,  and  the  warriors 
of  Tascaltecal  threw  themselves  into  the  water,  and,  under 
the  protection  of  the  bowmen,  they  crossed,  leaving  the 
enemy  greatly  surprised  at  the  resistance  they  en- 
countered, and  at  the  daring  which  the  Chichimecatecle 
had  displayed. 

Two  days  after  the  Spaniards  had  returned  from  fight- 
ing in  Marinalco,  as  Your  Majesty  will  have  seen  in  the 
chapter  before  the  last,  there  arrived  at  our  camp,  ten 
Indians  of  the  Otumies  who  had  been  slaves  to  the  in- 
habitants of  the  city,  and,  as  I  have  said,  had  given  them- 
selves as  vassals  of  Your  Majesty,  coming  every  day  to 
help  in  fighting;  and  they  told  me  that  the  lords  of  the 
province  of  Matalcingo,  who  are  their  neighbours,  made 

Third  Letter  103 

war  upon  them,  and  destroyed  their  land,  burned  a 
town,  captured  some  of  the  people  and  were  destroy- 
ing everything  they  could,  intending  to  come  to  our 
camps  and  attack  us,  so  that  those  of  the  city  could 
sally  forth  and  overcome  us.  We  gave  credit  to  most  of 
this,  because,  each  time,  for  a  few  days  past,  that  we  had 
entered  to  fight,  the  Culuans  had  threatened  us,  with  the 
people  of  this  province  of  Matalcingo,  which,  though  we  had 
not  much  information,  we  well  knew  was  large  and  twenty- 
five  leagues  distant  from  our  camp.  In  the  complaint 
these  Otumies  made  of  their  neighbours,  they  gave  us 
to  understand  that  they  wanted  help,  and,  although 
they  asked  it  at  a  very  needy  time,  confiding  in  the  help 
of  God,  and  in  order  to  break  the  wings  of  those  of  the 
city  who  daily  threatened  us  with  these  people  and  hoped 
for  aid,  which  could  only  come  from  them,  I  determined 
to  send  Gonzalo  de  Sandoval,  alguacil  mayor,  with 
eighteen  horsemen  and  one  hundred  foot-soldiers,  amongst 
whom  there  was  only  one  bowman:  he  departed  with 
them  and  the  Otumies,  our  friends;  and  God  knows  the 
danger  which  attended  all  who  went  as  well  as  all  who 
were  left.  But,  as  it  was  necessary  to  show  more  courage 
and  valour  than  ever,  and  to  die  fighting,  we  hid  our 
weakness  from  friends  as  well  as  from  foes,  and  many 
and  many  times  the  Spaniards  declared  they  hoped  it 
might  please  God  to  leave  them  their  lives  and  to  see 
them  victorious  over  the  city,  even  though  no  other 
profits  should  come  to  them  neither  in  it,  nor  in  any  other 
part  of  the  country;  by  which  the  risk  and  extreme  need 
in  which  we  found  ourselves  and  our  lives  may  be  judged. 
The  alguacil  mayor  left  that  day,  and  slept  in  a 
town  of  the  Otumies  which  is  on  the  frontier  of  Marin- 
alco,  and,  the  following  day,  he  started  very  early,  ar- 
riving at  some  small  hamlets  of  the  said  Otumies,  which 
he  found  deserted,  and  a  good  part  of  them  burnt.  Ad- 
vancing more  on  to  the  plain,  he  found  near  a  river  bank 

104  Letters  of  Cortes 

many  warriors  who,  having  just  finished  burning  another 
town,  retreated  when  they  saw  him.  On  the  road,  were 
found  many  loads  of  maize  and  roasted  children  which 
they  had  brought  as  provisions  and  which  they  left 
behind  them  when  they  discovered  the  Spaniards  coming. 
After  crossing  a  river  a  little  ahead  of  them  in  the  plain, 
the  enemy  began  to  recover,  and  the  alguacil  mayor 
charged  on  them  with  the  horsemen  and  put  them  to 
confusion;  and  they  fled  on  the  road  straight  towards 
their  town  of  Matalcingo,  about  three  leagues  from  there, 
the  pursuit  lasting  until  the  horsemen  had  shut  them  all 
up  in  the  town.  There  they  awaited  the  Spaniards  and 
our  allies  who  were  killing  those  who  had  been  stopped 
and  left  behind  by  the  horsemen.  More  than  two  thou- 
sand of  the  enemy  perished  in  this  pursuit.  When  those 
on  foot  and  our  friends,  who  were  more  than  sixty  thou- 
sand, overtook  the  horsemen,  they  began  to  rush  towards 
the  town  where  the  enemy  made  a  stand,  while  the  women 
and  children,  goods,  and  chattels,  were  safe  in  a  fort 
situated  on  a  very  elevated  hill  near  that  place.  But  as 
our  force  fell  on  them  suddenly,  they  forced  the  warriors 
also  to  retire  to  the  fort  on  that  elevation,  which  was 
very  steep  and  strong.  They  burned  and  sacked  the 
town  in  a  very  short  time,  but  the  alguacil  mayor  did  not 
attack  the  fort,  as  it  was  late  and  also  because  his  men  were 
very  tired  for  they  had  fought  during  the  entire  day. 
The  enemy  spent  that  night  in  yelling  and  in  making 
an  uproar  with  their  kettle-drums  and  trumpets. 

The  next  day,  in  the  early  morning,  the  alguacil  mayor 
led  all  the  people  to  scale  the  enemy's  fort,  though  fear- 
ful of  finding  himself  in  difficulties  from  their  resistance. 
On  arriving,  however,  they  found  none  of  the  adversaries, 
and  certain  of  our  Indian  friends,  descending  from  the 
elevation,  said  that  there  was  nobody  there  and  that  all 
the  enemy  had  left  at  daybreak.  In  the  midst  of  this, 
they  discovered  on  all  the  surrounding  plains,  a  great 

Third  Letter  105 

number  of  people,  who  were  Otumies,  and  the  horsemen, 
believing  that  they  were  enemies,  galloped  towards  them 
and  lanced  at  three  or  four  of  them;  and  as  the  language 
of  the  Otumies  is  different  from  that  of  Culua  they  did 
not  understand  them,  except  that  they  threw  away  their 
arms  and  came  towards  the  Spaniards,  who  even  after  that 
lanced  three  or  four.  But  they  understood  well  enough 
that  this  had  happened  from  our  men  not  recognising 
them.  As  the  enemy  did  not  wait,  the  Spaniards  de- 
termined to  return  to  another  of  their  towns  which  was 
also  hostile;  but,  seeing  such  a  force  come  against  them, 
the  inhabitants  came  out  peaceably.  The  alguacil 
mayor  spoke  kindly  to  the  chief  of  that  town,  and  told 
him  that  he  already  knew  that  I  would  receive  with  good 
will  all  who  came  to  offer  themselves  as  vassals  of  Your 
Majesty  although  they  might  be  very  culpable;  that  he 
besought  him  to  speak  with  those  of  Matalcingo  so  that 
they  might  come  to  me  of  their  own  choice;  he  agreed 
to  do  this  and  also  to  bring  those  of  Marinalco  to  peace. 
Thus  victorious  the  alguacil  mayor  returned  to  his  camp. 
On  that  day,  some  Spaniards  fought  in  the  city,  and 
the  citizens  had  sent  word  to  ask  our  interpreter  to 
come,  because  they  desired   to  discuss   peace,  Fjrst 

which,  as  it  appeared,  they  wished  only  on  the  Overtures 
condition  that  we  should  all  leave  the  country.  for  Peace 
They  did  this  with  the  object  of  resting  some  days 
and  of  furnishing  themselves  with  necessaries,  al- 
though we  never  overcame  their  disposition  to  fight. 
While  engaged  in  these  parleys  with  the  interpreter, 
our  people  were  very  near  the  enemy  with  only  a  broken- 
down  bridge  between  them,  and  an  old  man  amongst 
them  in  full  sight  of  all  very  slowly  drew  from  his  pro- 
vision bag  certain  things  which  he  ate,  so  as  to  give 
us  to  understand  that  they  were  not  in  want,  for  we 
had  told  them  that  they  would  starve  to  death;  and 
at  this  our  friends  assured  the  Spaniards  that  the  peace 

106  Letters  of  Cortes 

was  all  a  pretence  and  that  they  wished  to  fight.  That 
day,  however,  no  other  fighting  took  place,  because  the 
chiefs  told  the  interpreter  to  call  me. 

Four  days  after  the  alguacil  mayor  had  returned  from 
the  province  of  Matalcingo,  the  chief  of  it  and  those  of 
Marinalco  and  the  province  of  Quiscon,  which  is  large 
and  important  and  had  also  rebelled,  came  to  our 
camp  and  asked  pardon  for  the  past,  offering  to  serve 
well ;  and  thus  they  did  and  have  done  until  now.  While 
the  alguacil  mayor  was  away  in  Matalcingo,  those  of  the 
city  determined  to  come  at  night  and  fall  on  the  camp 
of  Alvarado.  A  quarter  before  dawn,  they  made  the 
attack,  and,  when  the  watchmen  on  horseback  and  foot 
perceived  them,  they  called  "To  Arms,"  and  those  who 
were  ready  charged  on  them.  When  the  enemy  per- 
ceived the  horsemen,  they  threw  themselves  into  the 
water;  in  the  meantime  our  people  came  up  and  fought 
them  for  three  hours.  When  we  in  the  camp  heard  one 
of  the  field  pieces  firing,  fearing  they  might  be  routed,  we 
ordered  the  people  to  arm  themselves  and  enter  the  city, 
so  as  to  thus  draw  off  the  attack  from  Alvarado.  As  the 
Indians  found  the  Spaniards  so  courageous,  they  decided 
to  return  to  the  city,  where  we  continued  to  fight  during 
the  day. 

By  this  time,  those  who  had  been  wounded  in  our  rout 
were  already  recovered,  and  the  ship  had  arrived  at 
Villa  Rica,  belonging  to  Juan  Ponce  de  Leon, *  who  had 
formerly  been  routed  in  the  country  or  island  of  Florida. 
They  sent  me  certain  powder  and  crossbows,  of  which 
we  stood  in  very  extreme  need;  and  now,  thanks  to 
God,  all  [about  here  there  is  not  a  province  which   is 

«  A  gentleman  who  first  came  to  San  Domingo  with  Columbus  in 
1493:  he  landed  on  the  coast,  which  he  named  Florida,  in  15 12,  when 
sailing  under  a  commission  from  Don  Diego  Columbus,  governor  of 
San  Domingo.  Instead  of  discovering  the  fountain  of  perpetual  youth 
he  had  come  to  seek,  he  was  wounded  in  a  skirmish  with  the  Indians 
from  which  he  died  in  Cuba. 

Third  Letter  107 

not  in  our  favour.  Seeing  that  the  people  of  the  city- 
were  so  rebellious,  and  displayed  such  determination  to 
die  as  no  race  had  ever  shown,  I  knew  not  what  means 
to  adopt  to  relieve  our  dangers  and  hardships,  and  to 
avoid  utterly  destroying  them  and  their  city,  which  was 
the  most  beautiful  thing  in  the  world.  It  was  useless 
to  tell  them  that  we  would  not  raise  our  camps,  or  that 
the  brigantines  would  not  cease  to  make  war  on  them, 
or  that  we  had  destroyed  those  of  Matalcingo  and  Marin- 
alco,  and  that  nowhere  in  the  country  was  anyone  left 
to  help  them,  or  that  they  could  not  obtain  maize,  nor 
wheat,  nor  fruit,  nor  water,  nor  any  provisions  from 
anywhere.  The  more  I  spoke  of  these  things,  the  less 
sign  of  yielding  did  we  see  in  them;  rather  we  found 
them  more  courageous  than  ever,  both  in  their  fight- 
ing and  their  scheming.  Seeing  that  things  went  on 
in  this  way,  and  that  already  more  than  forty-five 
days  had  been  spent  in  this  siege,  I  determined  to 
take  means  towards  our  security  and  to  further  straiten 
the  enemy.  This  latter  consisted  in  our  gaining  the 
streets  of  the  city  and  demolishing  all  the  houses  on  both 
sides,  so  that  henceforward  we  would  not  go  one  step 
ahead  without  levelling  everything,  so  that  which  was 
water  should  be  made  into  dry  land,  no  matter  how  much 
time  it  took.  I  called  the  lords  and  chiefs  of  our  allies 
and  told  them  what  I  had  determined,  so  that  they  might 
have  their  workmen  bring  their  spades  and  coas,  which 
are  certain  poles  which  they  use,  similar  to  the  Spanish 
hoe.  They  answered  me  that  they  would  do  this  with 
the  best  good  will,  and  that  it  was  a  very  good  decision 
at  which  they  rejoiced  greatly,  because  they  perceived 
that  in  this  way  the  city  would  be  destroyed,  which  was 
what  they  desired  more  than  anything  else  in  the 

Three    or  four   days  passed  in  concerting  this  plan; 
the   people    of    the   city  easily  divined   that   we    were 

108  Letters  of  Cortes 

planning  some  mischief  against  them,  and  they  also, 
as  it  afterwards  appeared,  were  arranging  what  they 
The  could  for   their    defence,  as  we  likewise  con- 

Destruction  jectured.  Having  concerted  with  our  friends 
of  Mexico  that  we  Would  attack  them  by  land  and 
water,  the  next  morning,  after  having  heard  mass,  we 
took  the  road  to  the  city,  and  when  we  reached  the 
water  pass  and  barricade  near  the  great  houses  of  the 
square,  intending  to  attack  them,  the  people  of  the  city 
asked  us  to  be  quiet  as  they  wished  to  sue  for  peace.  I 
ordered  my  people  to  cease  fighting,  and  told  them  that 
the  lord  of  the  city  should  come  there  to  speak  to  me,  and 
arrange  the  conditions  of  the  peace.  After  telling  me 
that  they  had  already  gone  to  call  him,  they  detained 
me  for  more  than  an  hour,  but  in  truth  they  did  not 
want  peace,  as  they  themselves  immediately  showed,  for, 
while  we  were  quiet,  they  began  to  throw  adobes  and 
darts  and  stones  at  us.  When  I  saw  this,  I  attacked  the 
barricades  and  captured  them,  and  on  entering  the 
square  we  found  it  strewn  with  large  stones  to  impede 
the  horses  moving  over  it;  for  generally  it  is  these  which 
do  the  most  fighting.  We  also  found  a  street  barricaded 
with  dry  stones,  and  another  filled  with  stones,  so  that 
the  horses  could  not  pass  through  them.  During  the 
rest  of  that  day,  we  filled  up  the  water  street  which 
leads  out  from  the  square,  so  that  the  Indians  never 
opened  it  again,  and  thenceforward  we  began,  little  by 
little  to  destroy  the  houses  and  to  shut  up,  and  fill  up 
completely,  all  we  had  gained  on  the  water.  As  we  were 
accompanied  all  day  by  more  than  one  hundred  and 
fifty  thousand  warriors,  a  good  deal  was  accomplished; 
and  thus  we  returned  that  day  to  our  camp,  and  the 
brigantines  and  canoes  of  our  friends,  after  doing  much 
damage  to  the  city  returned  to  rest.  The  next  day  we 
again  entered  the  city  in  the  same  order,  as  far  as  the 
enclosure  and  large  court  where  the  towers  of  the  idols 

Third  Letter  109 

are.  I  ordered  the  captains  to  do  nothing  else  but  fill 
up  the  water  streets  and  level  the  dangerous  passes  we 
had  captured ;  and  as  for  our  friends,  some  of  them  should 
level  and  burn  the  houses  and  others  should  fight  in  the 
customary  places,  while  the  horsemen  should  guard  the 
rear  of  all.  I  ascended  the  highest  tower  that  the  Indians 
might  recognise  me,  for  I  also  knew  that  they  would  be 
much  vexed  to  see  me  mounted  on  the  tower;  and  from 
there  I  encouraged  our  friends  and  gave  aid  wherever 
it  was  necessary,  while  they  were  incessantly  fighting. 
Sometimes  it  was  the  adversaries  who  retreated,  and 
sometimes  our  allies  whom  three  or  four  horsemen  aided 
and  inspired  with  infinite  courage  to  turn  against  the 

In  this  wise  and  order,  we  entered  the  city  on  the  five 
or  six  following  days,  and  always  at  the  hour  of  re- 
treat we  would  put  our  allies  ahead  and  post  a  num- 
ber of  Spaniards  in  ambush  in  some  of  the  houses, 
the  horsemen  remaining  behind  and  feigning  to  retreat 
hastily,  so  as  to  bring  them  out  of  the  square.  With 
these  and  the  ambushes  of  the  foot  soldiers  we  would  kill 
some  of  them  every  afternoon  with  our  lances.  On  one 
of  these  days  there  were  seven  or  eight  horsemen  in  the 
square,  hoping  the  enemy  would  come  out,  but,  as  they 
saw  that  they  did  not  appear,  they  feigned  to  retreat, 
and  the  enemy,  fearing  that  they  would  be  caught  at  the 
corner,  as  had  sometimes  happened,  stationed  themselves 
by  some  walls  and  roofs  in  an  infinite  number.  As  the 
horsemen,  who  were  eight  or  nine,  charged  towards  them, 
the  Indians  held  the  entrance  of  the  street  from  above 
so  that  they  could  not  pursue  those  of  the  enemy  who 
passed  through  it;  so  they  were  obliged  to  retire.  The 
enemy,  elated  by  having  forced  us  to  retreat,  charged 
very  lustily,  and  were  so  well  on  their  guard  that  without 
themselves  being  injured  they  forced  the  horsemen  to 
retreat,  and  wounded  two  horses.     This  prompted  me 

no  Letters  of  Cortes 

to  arrange  a  good  ambush,  as  I  will  recount  hereafter 
to  Your  Majesty.  The  afternoon  of  that  day,  we  re- 
turned to  our  camp,  leaving  everything  we  had  gained 
assured  and  levelled,  and  the  people  of  the  city  very 
boastful  because  they  believed  that  we  had  retired  out 
of  fear.  That  afternoon,  I  called  the  alguacil  mayor  by 
messenger  to  come  to  our  camp  before  daybreak  with 
fifteen  of  his  own  and  Pedro  de  Alvarado's  horsemen. 

The  alguacil  mayor  arrived  the  following  morning  at 
the  camp  with  fifteen  horsemen,  and  I  obtained  another 
The  twenty-five  from  those  at  Cuyoacan,  so   that 

Ambush  in  there  were  forty  in  all.  I  ordered  ten  of 
the  Square  them  to  join  in  the  morning  with  our  force, 
and  in  conjunction  with  the  brigantines  to  go  in  the 
same  order  as  heretofore  to  attack  the  enemy  and 
to  destroy  and  capture  everything  possible;  when  the 
time  for  them  to  retire  came,  I  would  start  with  the 
other  thirty  horsemen.  When  the  larger  part  of  the 
city  was  demolished  they  should  in  the  melee  drive 
the  enemy  into  their  entrenchments  and  water  streets, 
keeping  them  there  until  the  hour  of  retiring,  when  I  and 
the  other  thirty  horsemen  would  secretly  form  an  am- 
buscade in  the  large  houses  in  the  square.  The  Span- 
iards did  as  I  ordered,  and  at  one  o'clock  after  mid-day 
I  set  out  with  the  thirty  horsemen,  and  stationed  them 
in  those  houses  while  I  went  to  the  city  and  mounted 
the  high  tower  as  I  habitually  did.  While  I  was  there, 
some  Spaniards  opened  a  sepulchre  and  found  in  it  more 
than  fifteen  hundred  castellanos  worth  of  articles  in  gold. 
At  the  hour  of  returning,  I  ordered  that  they  should 
begin  to  withdraw  in  a  compact  body,  and  that  from  the 
first  moment  of  leaving  the  square  the  horsemen  should 
feign  an  attack,  behaving  as  though  they  hardly  dared 
to  make  it,  choosing  the  time  when  they  saw  a  great 
number  of  people  in  and  about  the  whole  square.  The 
men  posted  in  ambush  longed  for  the  hour  to  arrive, 

Third  Letter  in 

because  they  much  desired  to  act  their  part  well,  and 
were  already  tired  of  waiting.  I  then  joined  them,  as 
the  infantry  and  horsemen  began  retiring  through  the 
square,  accompanied  by  the  Indians  our  friends,  who 
understood  all  about  the  ambush.  The  enemy  rushed 
out,  yelling  as  if  they  had  gained  the  greatest  victory  in 
the  whole  world,  and  the  nine  horsemen  feigned  to  charge 
them  across  the  square,  and  then  suddenly  to  fall  back; 
and,  when  they  had  done  this  twice,  the  enemy  acquired 
such  fury  that  they  pressed  up  to  the  very  croups  of 
the  horses  and  were  thus  decoyed  towards  the  end  of  the 
street  where  the  ambush  was  laid.  When  we  saw  the 
Spaniards  had  passed  ahead  of  us,  and  heard  the  shot 
of  a  gun  fired  which  was  the  signal  agreed  upon,  we  knew 
that  the  time  to  sally  forth  had  arrived;  and,  with  the 
cry  of  "Senor  Santiago!"  we  suddenly  fell  upon  them, 
and  rushed  forward  into  the  square  with  our  lances, 
overthrowing  and  stopping  many,  which  latter  our 
friends,  who  joined  in  the  pursuit,  were  able  to  capture. 
In  this  ambush  more  than  five  hundred,  all  of  the  bravest 
and  most  valiant  of  their  principal  men  were  killed,  and, 
that  night,  our  allies  supped  well,  because  they  cut  up 
all  those  whom  they  had  killed  and  captured  to  eat. 
Such  was  the  fright  and  wonder  of  the  enemy  at  seeing 
themselves  suddenly  routed  that  there  was  no  more 
shouting  the  whole  afternoon,  nor  did  they  dare  to  show 
their  heads  in  the  streets,  nor  on  the  roofs,  except  where 
they  were  entirely  protected  and  safe.  About  nightfall, 
the  people  of  the  city  sent  certain  slaves  to  see  if  we  had 
retired,  or  what  we  were  doing.  As  they  appeared  in 
the  street,  some  ten  or  twelve  horsemen  charged  and 
pursued  them,  so  that  none  of  them  escaped. 

Such  was  the  consternation  of  the  enemy  from  this, 
our  victory,  that  during  the  rest  of  the  war  they  never 
again  dared  to  enter  the  square  when  we  were  retiring, 
even  if  only  one  horseman  was  there;  nor  did  they  ever 

ii2  Letters  of  Cortes 

dare  to  come  out  against  an  Indian  or  foot  soldier,  fearing 
that  another  ambush  might  spring  up  beneath  their  feet. 
The  victory  God  was  pleased  to  give  us  that  day  was  one 
of  the  principal  causes  why  the  city  was  taken  sooner, 
for  the  natives  were  dismayed  by  it  and  our  friends 
doubly  encouraged;  so  we  returned  to  our  camp,  in- 
tending to  hasten  on  the  war,  and,  until  we  finished  it, 
not  to  let  a  single  day  pass  without  entering  the  city. 
We  suffered  no  loss  that  day,  except  that,  during  the 
ambush,  some  of  the  horsemen  collided  with  each  other, 
and  one  was  thrown  from  his  mare,  which  galloped 
directly  towards  the  enemy  who  wounded  her  severely 
with  arrows,  and  she,  seeing  the  ill-treatment  she  got, 
returned  to  us;  and  that  night  she  died.  Although  we 
grieved  exceedingly  at  it,  for  the  horses  and  mares  gave 
life  to  us,  our  grief  was  less  than  had  she  died  in  the  hands 
of  our  enemies,  as  we  feared  would  happen;  had  such 
been  the  case,  their  satisfaction  would  have  outweighed 
their  grief  for  those  we  had  killed.  The  brigantines  and 
canoes  of  our  friends  made  great  havoc  that  day  in  the 
city  without  suffering  any  loss. 

We  already  knew  that  the  Indians  of  the  city  were 
much  discouraged,  and  two  poor  creatures,  who  came 
Suffering  in  out  by  night  to  our  camp  because  they  were 
the  City  starving,  told  us  that  during  the  night  they 
came  to  hunt  amongst  the  houses  and  search  in  those 
parts  we  had  already  captured,  looking  for  herbs  and 
wood  and  roots  to  eat.  Since  we  had  already  filled 
up  many  of  the  water  streets,  and  repaired  many  of 
the  bad  places,  I  determined  to  enter  the  city  be- 
fore daybreak,  and  do  all  the  damage  I  could.  The 
brigantines  left  before  dawn  and  I  with  twelve  horse- 
men and  some  foot  soldiers  and  our  friends,  came 
in  suddenly,  having  first  placed  spies,  who,  at  day- 
break made  signs  to  us  in  our  ambush  to  come  and 
charge  on  a  vast  number  of  people.     But  they  were  of 

Third  Letter  113 

the  most  miserable  class  who  had  come  out  to  search 
for  something  to  eat,  most  of  them  being  unarmed,  and 
women  and  boys.  We  did  much  damage  amongst  them 
all  over  the  city,  wherever  we  were  able  to  move  about, 
so  that  between  prisoners  and  killed  they  exceeded  more 
than  eight  hundred,  and  the  brigantines  also  captured 
people  in  canoes  who  were  fishing,  making  great  havoc 
amongst  them.  As  the  captains  and  chiefs  of  the  city 
saw  us  moving  about  at  an  unaccustomed  hour,  they 
became  as  frightened  as  by  the  recent  ambush,  and  none 
dared  to  come  and  fight  with  us,  so  we  returned  to  our 
camp  well  satisfied  with  great  spoils  and  food  for  our 

The  next  morning,  we  entered  the  city,  and,  as  our 
friends  had  observed  the  systematic  order  we  followed 
in  the  destruction  of  it,  the  multitude  which  daily  came 
with  us  was  beyond  all  reckoning.  We  finished  taking 
the  whole  street  of  Tacuba  that  day  and  filling  up  the 
bad  places  in  it,  so  that  the  people  from  Pedro  de  Alva- 
rado's  camp  could  communicate  with  us  through  the 
city.  We  won  two  other  bridges  on  the  principal  street 
leading  to  the  market-place,  filling  them  up,  and  we 
burned  the  houses  of  the  lord  of  the  city,  who  was  a 
youth  of  eighteen,  called  Guatimucin,  being  the  second 
ruler  since  the  death  of  Montezuma ;  and  the  Indians  had 
many  strong  places  amongst  these  houses,  as  they  were 
large  and  solid  and  surrounded  by  water.  Two  other 
bridges  were  also  captured  in  other  streets  which  run 
near  the  one  leading  to  the  market,  and  many  passes 
were  filled  up,  so  that  three  of  the  four  quarters  of  the 
city  were  already  ours,  and  the  Indians  could  only  retreat 
to  the  strongest  part  of  it  only,  which  comprised  the 
houses  furthest  out  in  the  water. 

The  following  day,  which  was  the  feast  of  the  Apostle 
Santiago  [July  25th],  we  entered  the  city  in  the  same 
order  as  before,  following  the  large  street  to  the  market- 

VOL.   II. — 8 

ii4  Letters  of  Cortes 

place  and  capturing  a  broad  water  street  where  the  enemy 
was  well  fortified.  We  were  delayed  there  for  some  time ; 
and  it  was  dangerous  capturing  it,  nor  were  we  able  to 
fill  it  up  in  the  whole  of  the  day  (as  it  was  very  broad), 
so  that  the  horsemen  could  cross  to  the  other  side.  The 
Indians,  seeing  we  were  all  on  foot,  and  that  the  horsemen 
had  not  passed  over,  attacked  us  with  some  fresh  troops, 
many  of  them  very  splendid;  but,  as  we  turned  upon 
them  with  our  many  archers,  they  retreated  towards 
their  barricades  and  forts,  badly  wounded  with  arrows. 
Besides  this,  all  the  Spanish  foot  soldiers  carried  their 
pikes,  which  I  had  ordered  made  after  our  rout,  and  which 
were  very  useful.  Nothing  was  heard  all  day  on  each 
side  of  the  principal  street  but  the  burning  and  destroying 
of  the  houses,  which  was  certainly  pitiful  to  see,  but  as 
nothing  else  could  avail  we  were  obliged  to  follow  those 
tactics.  When  the  people  of  the  city  saw  such  ruin,  they 
encouraged  themselves  by  telling  our  friends  to  go  on 
burning  and  destroying  as  it  was  they  who  would  have 
to  rebuild  the  city  in  any  case,  because  if  they  [the  Mexi- 
cans] were  victorious  they  would  make  them  do  it,  and 
if  not  they  would  have  to  rebuild  it  for  us ;  and  it  pleased 
God  that  this  last  should  turn  out  to  be  true,  for  they 
are  indeed  the  ones  who  have  to  do  this  work. x 

Very  early  on  the  morning  of  the  next  day,  we  entered 
the  city  in  the  customary  order,  and,  arriving  at  the 
water  street  which  we  had  filled  up  the  day  before,  found 
it  in  the  same  state  we  had  left  it;  and,  advancing  about 
two  bow-shots,  we  captured  two  large  ditches  of  water, 
which  had  been  cut  in  the  same  street,  and  arrived  at 
the  small  tower  of  their  idols,  in  which  we  found  certain 
heads  of  Christians  whom  they  had  killed;  a  sight  which 
filled  us  with  much  commiseration.     And  from  that  tower, 

»The  logic  of  this  taunt  was  verified  later,  as  Cortes  observes, 
for  the  work  of  rebuilding  the  city  fell  upon  the  Indian  allies  who  had 
destroyed  it. 

Third  Letter  115 

the  street  in  which  we  were,  led  straight  to  the  causeway 
of  Sandoval's  camp,  and,  on  the  left  side,  another  street 
in  which  water  no  longer  flowed,  led  to  the  market; 
they  still  held  only  one  against  us,  nor  could  we 
pass  it  that  day,  though  we  fought  the  Indians  stoutly. 
God,  Our  Lord,  gave  us  victory  every  day,  and  the  worst 
always  fell  on  them.  It  was  late  that  day  when  we 
returned  to  our  camp. 

The  next  day,  while  preparing  to  return  to  the  city 
about  nine  o'clock  in  the  morning,  we  observed  from  our 
camp  that  smoke  was  rising  from  the  two  highest  towers 
which  were  in  Tatelulco,  or  the  market-place  of  the  city. 
This  we  could  not  understand,  for  it  seemed  something 
more  than  the  incensing  which  the  Indians  usually 
made  to  their  idols,  so  we  suspected  that  Pedro  de  Alva- 
rado's  men  had  arrived  there,  and,  although  this  was  the 
fact,  we  could  not  believe  it.  Pedro  de  Alvarado's  men 
certainly  behaved  very  valiantly,  for  there  were  many 
bridges  and  barricades  to  capture  and  the  greater  part 
of  the  enemy  always  came  to  defend  them;  but  as  he 
saw  that  on  our  side  we  were  hedging  the  enemy  in, 
he  did  everything  he  could  to  enter  the  market-place, 
because  their  whole  strength  was  centred  there.  How- 
ever, he  could  arrive  only  within  sight  of  it,  and  capture 
those  towers  and  many  others  which  adjoin  the  same 
market-place,  forming  an  enclosure  almost  like  that  of 
many  of  the  towers  in  the  city;  the  horsemen  had  hard 
work  and  were  forced  to  retreat  with  their  horses  wounded, 
and  thus  Pedro  de  Alvarado  and  his  people  returned  to 
his  camp.  We  could  not,  that  day,  capture  a  bridge  and 
water  street  which  still  remained  to  be  taken  in  order 
to  reach  the  market-place,  without  filling  up  and  levelling 
all  the  bad  places,  and  on  retiring  they  pressed  us  very 
hard,  although  at  their  cost. 

We  again  entered  the  city  on  the  morning  of  the  fol- 
lowing day,  and,  encountering  no  obstacle  before  reach- 

n6  Letters  of  Cortes 

ing  the  market-place,  except  a  water  course  and  its 
barricade  near  the  small  tower  of  which  I  have  spoken, 
we  attacked  it,  and  the  standard  bearer  and  two  or 
three  other  Spaniards  threw  themselves  into  the  water, 
so  the  defenders  immediately  abandoned  the  pass,  which 
we  filled  and  made  passable  for  the  horsemen.  While 
we  were  repairing  it,  Pedro  de  Alvarado  arrived  by  the 
same  street  with  four  horsemen,  to  our  mutual  satis- 
faction, for  this  was  the  way  to  speedily  finish  the  war. 
Pedro  de  Alvarado  left  a  file  of  guards  in  the  rear,  not 
only  for  the  purpose  of  preserving  what  had  been  won, 
but  also  for  his  protection,  and,  as  the  pass  was  quickly 
repaired,  I,  with  some  horsemen,  went  to  view  the  market- 
place, and  ordered  that  the  others  should  not  advance 
beyond  that  pass.  Afterwards  we  reconnoitred  the 
square  for  a  short  time,  inspecting  its  arcades  whose 
roofs  were  full  of  the  enemy.  As  the  square  was  very 
large,  and  they  saw  the  horsemen  moving  about  there, 
they  did  not  dare  to  attack.  I  ascended  that  large 
tower  which  adjoins  the  market-place,  in  which,  and 
in  others  also,  we  found  the  heads  of  the  Christians  whom 
they  had  killed  and  offered  to  their  idols,  as  well  as 
those  of  the  Indians  of  Tascaltecal,  our  friends  between 
whom  and  the  Mexicans  there  was  a  very  ancient  and 
cruel  feud.  I  saw  from  that  tower  that  we  had  without 
doubt  captured  seven-eighths  of  the  city,  and,  seeing 
that  such  a  number  of  the  enemy  could  not  possibly  hold 
out  in  such  straits,  chiefly  because  those  houses  left  them 
were  so  small  and  each  built  over  the  water,  and  above 
all  because  of  the  great  famine  prevailing  amongst  them, 
for  we  found  the  gnawed  roots  and  bark  of  trees  in  the 
streets,  I  determined  to  suspend  fighting  for  a  day  and 
devise  some  measure  to  save  this  multitude  of  people 
from  perishing.  The  harm  done  them  caused  me  such 
compassion  and  distress  that  I  continually  importuned 
them  with  offers  of  peace,  but  they  answered  that  in  no 

Third  Letter  117 

wise  would  they  surrender  and  that  only  one  man  being  left 
he  would  die  fighting,  and  that  of  all  they  possessed  we 
could  never  obtain  anything  for  they  would  burn  it  and 
throw  it  into  the  water  whence  it  would  never  more 
appear.  Not  wishing  to  return  evil  for  evil,  I  dissembled, 
and  refrained  from  fighting. 

As  very  little  powder  was  left  to  us,  we  had  in  the  last 
fifteen  days  discussed  somewhat  about  making  a  cata- 
pult;1 and,  though  there  was  no  first-class  The 
master-workman  who  knew  how  to  do  it,  Catapult 
some  carpenters  offered  to  make  a  small  one.  Al- 
though I  always  believed  that  we  would  not  succeed 
in  this  work,  I  consented  that  they  should  make  it, 
and,    in    those  days    when    we   had    the    Indians    cor- 

t  A  soldier  called  Sotelo,  native  of  Seville,  who  claimed  to  have 
seen  much  service  in  Italy,  and  to  know  all  about  the  construction  of 
engines  of  warfare,  proposed  to  Cortes  to  make  this  catapult.  As 
Bernal  Diaz  says,  he  was  eternally  talking  about  the  wonderful  military 
machines  he  could  build,  with  which  he  promised  to  destroy  in  two 
days  the  remaining  quarter  of  the  city,  where  Quauhtemotzin  held 
out.  The  commander  consented  to  the  trial,  and  stone,  lime,  timber, 
cables,  and  all  the  necessary  materials,  were  furnished,  together  with 
carpenters,  and  masons,  to  carry  out  Sotelo's  instructions.  The  ma- 
chine was  erected  on  the  platform  of  masonry  known  as  the  Mumuztli, 
a  sort  of  theatre  which  stood  in  the  square,  and  the  process  of  its 
construction  was  watched  with  exultant  expectations  by  the  Indian 
allies,  who  foresaw  the  wholesale  destruction  of  their  enemies  by 
means  of  the  mysterious  machine.  They  indulged  in  jubilant  prophe- 
cies, and  called  on  the  Mexicans  to  observe  the  growth  of  the  engine 
destined  to  accomplish  their  overthrow.  The  Mexicans  were  equally 
impressed  by  the  strange  monster,  and  watched  its  building  with  the 
feelings  of  one  in  the  condemned  cell,  who  hears  the  workmen  building 
the  scaffold  on  which  he  is  to  perish  at  dawn.  The  day  of  the  trial 
(August  6th)  arrived,  and  a  huge  stone  was  fired  which  instead  of 
flying  over  into  the  Indian  quarter  where  it  was  aimed,  shot  up  into 
the  air,  and  fell  back  into  exactly  the  place  from  whence  it  departed. 
Cortes  was  furious  with  Sotelo,  and  ashamed  of  the  failure  in  the 
presence  of  the  gazing  multitude:  the  luckless  inventor  was  in  dis- 
grace, and  the  catapult  remained  one  of  the  standing  jokes  in  the 
army.  Infusing  some  gaiety  into  the  company  this  invention  may  be 
said  to  have  served  some  good  purpose,  even  though  not  exactly  the 
one  expected  of  it. 

n8  Letters  of  Cortes 

nered,  they  finished  it  and  took  it  to  the  market-place 
to  station  it  on  a  sort  of  square  theatre  which  stands  in 
the  middle,  and  which  is  built  of  stone  and  mortar  and  is 
about  fourteen  feet  in  height,  and  about  thirty  paces 
long  from  one  corner  to  the  other;  when  they  celebrated 
their  plays  and  festivals,  the  performers  placed  them- 
selves on  this  where  all  the  people  in  the  market  both 
above  and  below  the  arcades  could  see  them.  After 
the  catapult  was  brought  there,  three  or  four  days  were 
occupied  in  placing  it,  and  the  Indians  our  friends 
threatened  those  of  the  city  with  it,  telling  them  that 
with  this  engine  we  would  kill  them  all.  Although  no 
other  result  was  obtained  (as  indeed  there  was  none) 
except  the  fright  it  caused,  from  which  we  thought  the 
enemy  would  surrender,  it  would  have  been  sufficient; 
the  deception  was  a  double  one  because  neither  the 
carpenters  fulfilled  their  design  nor  did  the  defenders 
of  the  city  (although  they  were  much  frightened)  take 
any  step  to  surrender,  while  I  disguised  the  failure  of 
the  catapult  by  pretending  that  moved  by  compassion, 
we  forbore  to  kill  them  all. 

The  next  day,  after  placing  the  catapult,  we  returned 
to  the  city,  and,  as  three  or  four  days  had  passed  without 
any  fighting,  we  found  the  streets  by  which  we  passed 
full  of  women  and  children  and  other  miserable  people, 
who  came  out  so  emaciated  and  thin,  that  it  was  the 
greatest  pity  in  the  world  to  behold  them,  so  I  ordered 
our  friends  not  to  hurt  them.  But,  none  of  the  warriors 
appeared  where  any  harm  could  reach  them,  though  we 
saw  them  on  the  tops  of  their  roofs,  covered  with  the 
blankets  they  wear,  and  without  weapons.  I  had  them 
required  that  day  to  make  peace,  but  their  replies  were 
inconclusive.  As  they  occupied  us  most  of  the  day  with 
this,  I  sent  them  word  that  I  intended  to  attack  them 
and  that  they  should  withdraw  all  their  people,  otherwise 
I  would  permit  our  friends  to  kill  them.     They  said  they 

Third  Letter  119 

desired  peace,  and  I  answered  them  that  I  did  not  see 
amongst  them  their  lord  with  whom  I  must  treat,  but 
when  he  came  for  that  purpose  I  would  give  him  a  safe 
conduct  and  we  would  discuss  peace.  Seeing  it  was  all 
mockery,  and  that  they  were  prepared  to  fight  with  us, 
I  ordered  Pedro  de  Alvarado,  after  having  admonished 
them  many  times  and  in  order  to  reduce  them  to  extreme 
necessity,  to  enter  with  all  his  people  through  a  large 
quarter  which  the  enemy  held,  and  in  which  there  were 
more  than  one  thousand  houses;  and  I,  with  those  of  our 
camp,  came  on  foot  from  another  side,  because  we  could 
not  avail  ourselves  of  the  horsemen.  The  fight  between 
us  and  our  enemies  was  very  stubborn,  but  finally  we 
won  that  whole  quarter,  and,  such  was  the  slaughter 
committed  upon  our  enemies,  that  between  killed  and 
wounded  there  were  more  than  twelve  thousand. 

Our  allies  handled  the  enemy  most  cruelly,  for  they 
would  in  no  wise  spare  any  life,  although  they  were 
reproved  and  punished  by  us. 

We  returned  next  day  to  the  city,  and  I  ordered  that 
no  fighting  should  take  place  nor  any  harm  be  done  to 
the  enemy,  who,  when  they  saw  such  a  multitude  of 
people,  and  their  own  vassals  and  subjects,  arrayed 
against  them,  and  saw  their  extreme  necessity,  which 
left  them  not  even  a  place  to  stand,  save  upon  the  bodies 
of  their  own  dead,  moved  by  the  desire  to  escape  such  a 
great  misfortune,  asked  us  why  we  did  not  put  an  end 
to  them;  then  suddenly  they  said  to  call  me  as  they  wished 
to  speak  to  me.  All  the  Spaniards  wished  that  this  war 
might  finally  end,  and,  pitying  such  misery,  they  re- 
joiced, believing  that  the  Indians  wanted  peace;  so  they 
came  gladly  to  call  and  importune  me  to  come  to  a  barri- 
cade where  certain  chiefs  wished  to  speak  to  me.  I  knew 
that  little  profit  would  come  of  my  going,  but  I  deter- 
mined at  all  events  to  go,  although  I  knew  their  not 
surrendering  all  depended  on  the  sovereign  and  some 

120  Letters  of  Cortes 

three  or  four  other  chiefs  of  the  city,  for  the  others,  dead 
or  alive,  all  desired  to  be  out  of  it.  And  when  I  arrived 
at  the  barricade,  they  told  me  that,  as  they  held  me  to 
be  the  son  of  the  sun,  and  as  the  sun  in  such  brief  period 
as  a  day  and  a  night,  made  the  circuit  of  the  entire  world, 
I  ought  likewise  to  finish  killing  them  speedily  and  save 
them  from  so  much  suffering,  because  they  wished  to 
die  and  go  to  heaven  to  their  Ochilobus,  *  who  was 
awaiting  to  give  them  rest;  this  being  the  idol  which 
they  hold  in  the  greatest  reverence.  I  said  many  things 
in  reply  to  persuade  them  to  surrender,  and  nothing 
availed  with  them,  although  they  perceived  in  us  greater 
wishes  and  offers  for  peace  than  had  ever  been  shown 
to  any  other  vanquished,  for  with  the  help  of  Our  Lord 
we  were  the  victors. 

Having  reduced  the  enemy  to  the  last  extremity,  as 
may  be  gathered  from  what  has  been  said,  and  in  order 
Renewed  to  w^n  them  from  their  evil  intention,  which 
Proposals  was  their  determination  to  die,  I  spoke  to  one 
of  Peace.  0f  their  noble  chiefs,  the  uncle  of  Don  Fer- 
nando, lord  of  Tesaico,  who  had  been  captured  fight- 
ing in  the  city,  and  whom  we  held  prisoner.  Although 
badly  wounded  I  asked  him  if  he  wished  to  return 
to  the  city,  and  he  answered  me,  "yes, "  and,  when 
we  entered  it  the  next  day,  I  sent  him,  with  certain 
Spaniards,  who  delivered  him  to  the  people  of  the 
city;  and,  to  their  chief,  I  had  spoken  exclusively  in 
order  that  he  might  talk  to  the  sovereign  and  the  other 
chiefs  about  peace,  and  he  promised  to  do  everything 
that  was  possible.  The  people  of  the  city  received  him 
with  much  deference  as  a  nobleman,  and,  when  they 
took  him  before  Quatamucin,  their  sovereign,  and  he 
began  to  speak  of  peace,  it  is  said  they  immediately 
ordered  him  to  be  killed  and  sacrificed,  and  the  answer 

1  Huitzilopotchli,  also  spelled  Huitchilopochtli :  the  god  of  war  whose 
statue  stood  in  the  great  teocalli. 

Third  Letter  121 

we  were  awaiting  they  gave  us  with  great  yells,  saying 
that  they  wanted  nothing  but  death.  They  began  to 
discharge  arrows  and  stones  at  us,  and  fought  us  very 
stoutly,  so  much  so  that  they  killed  a  horse  with  a  dagger 
which  one  of  them  had  taken  from  one  of  our  friends; 
but  finally  they  paid  dearly  for  it,  because  many  of  them 
perished,  and  thus  we  returned  that  day  to  our  camp. 
The  next  day,  we  again  entered  into  the  city,  and  our 
adversaries  were  so  reduced  that  an  infinite  number  of 
our  friends  ventured  to  remain  there  during  the  night; 
having  come  in  sight  of  the  enemy  we  did  not  care  to 
fight  with  them,  but  only  moved  about  in  their  city, 
because  every  hour  and  every  moment  we  believed  that 
they  would  come  to  surrender.  In  order  to  persuade 
them,  I  rode  near  one  of  the  barricades  and  called  certain 
chiefs,  who  were  behind  them,  whom  I  already  knew, 
and  said  to  them  that  since  they  saw  that  everything 
was  lost,  and  recognised  that,  if  I  wished,  none  of  them 
would  escape  why  was  it  that  Quatamucin  their  lord  did 
not  come  to  speak  with  me;  that  I  promised  to  do  him 
no  harm,  and  if  he  and  they  wished  for  peace  they  would 
be  well  received  and  well  treated  by  me.  I  gave  them 
other  reasons,  with  which  I  provoked  them  to  many 
tears;  and,  weeping,  they  replied  that  they  well  recognised 
their  error  and  perdition,  and  that  they  would  go  and 
speak  to  their  lord  and  return  speedily  with  the  answer, 
asking  me  not  to  go  away  from  there.  So  they  went 
away,  returning  within  a  short  space  to  tell  me  that, 
inasmuch  as  it  was  already  late  their  lord  had  not  come, 
but  that  at  noon  on  the  following  day  he  would  certainly 
come  to  speak  with  me  in  the  market-place;  so  we  re- 
turned to  our  camp.  I  ordered  that  on  the  next  day 
that  high  square  platform  which  stood  in  the  middle 
of  the  market-place  should  be  prepared  for  the  lords  and 
princes  of  the  city,  and  that  they  should  likewise  prepare 
a  repast  for  them;  and  this  was  done  accordingly. 

122  Letters  of  Cortes 

We  went  into  the  city  early  the  next  morning,  and  I 
ordered  the  people  to  be  prepared  in  case  the  inhabitants 
intended  to  perpetrate  any  treachery,  so  that  we  might 
not  be  surprised ;  I  also  cautioned  Pedro  de  Al varado 
who  was  there.  When  we  reached  the  market-place,  I 
sent  word  to  Quatamucin,  telling  him  that  I  was  waiting 
for  him,  but,  it  appeared  he  had  determined  not  to  come, 
but  sent  five  of  his  nobles  or  chief  lords  of  the  city  whose 
names,  as  it  is  not  worth  while,  I  do  not  give  here.  They 
came  and  told  me  that  their  lord  had  sent  them  to  pray 
me  to  pardon  him  if  he  did  not  come,  that  he  was  greatly 
afraid  to  appear  before  me,  and  also  that  he  was  ill  and 
that  they  had  come  hither  to  hear  my  commands,  which 
they  would  obey;  although  the  sovereign  did  not  appear 
we  rejoiced  a  great  deal  that  these  chiefs  had  come,  as  it 
seemed  to  us  that  here  was  now  a  way  to  reach  a  speedy 
end  of  the  whole  business.  I  received  them  with  a  show 
of  gladness,  and  immediately  ordered  meat  and  drink 
to  be  given  them,  in  partaking  of  which  they  showed  their 
craving  and  need  for  it.  When  they  had  eaten,  I  told 
them  to  speak  to  their  lord  to  persuade  him  not  to  be 
afraid,  for  I  promised  him  that  no  annoyance  would 
be  offered  him  if  he  appeared  before  me,  nor  would  he  be 
detained,  but  that,  without  his  presence,  no  good  under- 
standing could  be  reached,  nor  agreement  made.  I 
ordered  some  refreshments  to  be  taken  to  him,  and  they 
promised  me  to  do  all  that  was  in  their  power;  and  thus 
they  departed.  Two  hours  afterwards,  they  returned, 
and  brought  me  some  fine  mantles  of  cotton,  such  as  they 
use,  and  they  told  me  that  Quatamucin  their  lord  would 
by  no  means  come,  and  that  he  refused  to  discuss  it. 
I  again  repeated  to  them  that  I  did  not  know  why  he 
mistrusted  me,  inasmuch  as  he  saw  that  to  them  whom 
I  knew  to  be  the  principal  promoters  of  the  war,  and  who 
had  sustained  it,  I  nevertheless  extended  good  treatment, 
allowing  them  to  come  and  go  in  security  without  being 

Third  Letter  123 

in  any  way  annoyed,  and  I  besought  them  to  speak 
again  to  him,  and  to  urge  his  coming  because  it  was  for 
his  advantage.  They  answered  me  that  they  would  do 
so,  and  bring  me  the  answer  the  next  day ;  and  thus  they 
left  and  we  also  withdrew  to  our  camp. 

The  next  day,  those  chiefs  came  to  our  camp  very  early 
in  the  morning  and  asked  me  to  come  to  the  square  of 
the  market  of  the  city,  because  their  sovereign  wished 
to  speak  to  me.  Believing  it  was  true,  I  mounted  my 
horse  and  awaited  him  where  it  had  been  agreed,  for  more 
than  three  or  four  hours,  but  he  never  chose  to  appear 
before  me.  As  I  saw  the  mockery,  and  it  had  already 
become  late,  and  that  neither  the  other  messengers  nor 
the  lord  came,  I  sent  for  the  Indians,  our  friends,  who 
had  been  left  at  the  entrance  of  the  city  almost  a  league 
from  where  we  were,  whom  I  had  ordered  not  to  advance 
beyond  there  because  the  people  of  the  city  had  asked 
me  that,  whilst  treating  for  peace  none  of  them  should 
be  inside  it.  Neither  they  nor  those  of  Pedro  de  Alva- 
rado's  camp  delayed  in  coming,  and,  when  they  arrived, 
we  attacked  some  of  the  barricades  and  water  streets 
which  they  held,  no  other  strong  force  being  left  them, 
and  we  charged  amongst  them  ourselves,  as  well  as  our 
friends,  according  as  we  pleased.  Before  leaving  the 
camp,  I  had  ordered  that  Gonzalo  de  Sandoval  should 
proceed  with  the  brigantines  to  the  place  where  the 
Indians  had  fortified  themselves  in  the  houses,  thus 
holding  them  surrounded,  but  not  attacking  them  until 
he  should  observe  that  we  began  to  fight ;  in  such  manner 
that,  holding  them  thus  surrounded,  they  had  no  place 
to  go  except  amongst  the  dead,  and  on  the  roofs  which 
were  left  them.  For  this  cause,  they  neither  had,  nor 
procured,  arrows,  nor  darts,  nor  stones,  with  which  to 
hurt  us.  Our  friends  accompanied  us,  armed  with 
swords  and  shields,  and  such  was  the  slaughter  done  that 
day  on  water  and  on  land,  that  with  prisoners  taken 

124  Letters  of  Cortes 

they  numbered  in  all  more  than  forty  thousand  men; 
and  such  were  the  shrieks  and  the  weeping  of  the  women 
and  children  that  there  was  none  whose  heart  did  not 
break;  and  we  had  more  trouble  in  preventing  our  allies 
from  killing  and  inflicting  tortures  than  we  had  in  fight- 
ing with  the  Indians,  for  no  such  inhuman  cruelty  as 
the  natives  of  these  parts  practice  was  ever  seen  amongst 
any  people.  Our  allies  obtained  very  great  plunder, 
which  we  could  not  prevent,  because  we  were  about 
nine  hundred  Spaniards,  and  they  more  than  one  hun- 
dred and  fifty  thousand  men,  and  no  attention  or  dili- 
gence was  sufficient  to  prevent  them  from  robbing, 
although  we  did  everything  possible  to  stop  it.  One 
of  the  reasons  why  I  refused  to  go  to  extremes  in  those 
previous  days  was  that,  by  taking  them  by  assault,  they 
would  probably  throw  what  they  had  into  the  lake,  and 
if  they  did  not  do  so  our  allies  would  steal  everything 
they  found;  and,  for  this  reason,  I  feared  that  but  a 
small  part  of  the  great  wealth  existing  in  the  city,  as 
shown  by  what  I  had  before  obtained  for  Your  Highness, 
would  be  secured  for  Your  Majesty.  As  it  was  already 
late,  and  we  could  no  longer  endure  the  stench  of  the 
dead  which  had  lain  for  many  days  in  those  streets  (the 
most  pestilential  thing  in  the  world),  we  returned  to  our 

That  afternoon,  I  arranged  that,  as  on  the  next  day 
following  we  should  again  enter  the  city,  three  large 
field  pieces  should  be  prepared  which  we  would  take  to 
the  city,  because,  as  I  feared  that  the  enemy  were  so 
compact  that  they  could  not  turn  round,  the  Spaniards 
in  charging  might  be  crushed  by  mere  numbers,  and 
therefore  I  wanted  to  do  them  some  damage  with  the 
field  pieces  in  order  to  force  them  out  towards  us.  I 
ordered  the  alguacil  mayor  likewise  to  be  prepared  to 
enter,  the  next  day,  with  the  brigantines,  through  the 
canals  of  a  large  lake  extending  amongst  some  houses 

Third  Letter  125 

where  the  canoes  of  the  city  were  all  gathered ;  and  there 
were  already  so  few  houses  left  where  they  might  shelter 
that  the  lord  of  the  city,  with  certain  of  the  chiefs,  had 
placed  himself  in  a  canoe,  not  knowing  what  to  do  with 
themselves.  Thus  we  planned  our  entrance  on  the 
morning  of  the  following  day. 

When  day  had  dawned,  I  had  our  whole  force  prepared, 
and  the  large  field  pieces  brought  out;  and  I  had,  the 
day  before,  ordered  Pedro  de  Alvarado  to  The  Fall 
await  me  in  the  square  of  the  market-place,  of 

and  not  to  begin  fighting  until  I  arrived.  Mexico 
All  being  assembled,  and  the  brigantines  ready  for 
action,  behind  the  houses  on  the  water,  where  the 
enemy  were  gathered,  I  ordered  that,  on  hearing  a 
musket-shot,  the  land  force  should  enter  the  small  part 
which  was  still  to  be  captured,  and  force  the  enemy 
towards  the  water  where  the  brigantines  would  be  await- 
ing them ;  and  I  cautioned  them  particularly  to  look  after 
Quatamucin,  and  to  endeavour  to  take  him  alive,  because 
then  the  war  would  stop.  I  mounted  the  top  of  a  roof, 
and,  before  the  fight  began,  I  spoke  with  some  of  the 
chiefs  of  the  city  whom  I  knew,  and  asked  them  why  their 
lord  did  not  come,  seeing  that  they  were  in  such  straits, 
and  I  said  they  ought  not  to  be  the  cause  of  all  perish- 
ing; and  told  them  to  call  him,  saying  that  nobody  need 
be  afraid;  and  it  seemed  that  two  of  those  chiefs  went 
to  call  him.  After  a  short  time,  they  returned  with  one 
of  the  highest  chiefs  of  all  of  them,  who  was  called 
Ciguacoacin, l  captain  and  governor  of  them  all,  whose 
counsel  was  followed  in  everything  concerning  the  war. 
I  showed  a  very  good  disposition  towards  him,  so  that  he 
might  be  reassured  and  have  no  fears,  and  finally  he 
told  me  that  the  sovereign  would  in  no  way  appear 
before  me,  and  that  he  rather  preferred  to  die  where  he 
was,    and   that  he  himself  was  much   grieved   at   this 

i  Chihuacoatl. 

126  Letters  of  Cortes 

decision  but  that  I  could  do  as  I  pleased.  Recognising 
by  this  his  determination,  I  told  him  to  return  to  his  own 
people,  and  that  he  and  they  might  prepare  themselves, 
as  I  was  determined  to  attack  them,  and  finish  destroying 
them;  and  so  it  happened.  More  than  five  hours  had 
passed  in  these  parleyings,  and  the  inhabitants  of  the 
city  were  all  treading  on  the  dead,  others  in  the  water 
were  swimming,  and  others  drowning  themselves  in  the 
large  lake  where  the  canoes  were  collected.  Such  was 
the  plight  in  which  they  were,  that  no  understanding 
could  conceive  how  they  could  endure  it;  and  an  infinite 
number  of  men,  women,  and  children  kept  coming  towards 
us,  who,  in  their  haste,  pushed  one  another  back  into  the 
water  and  were  drowned  amidst  the  multitude  of  dead. 
It  appears  they  had  perished  to  the  number  of  more  than 
fifty  thousand,  from  the  salt  water  which  they  drank, 
or  from  starvation,  and  pestilence.  All  these  bodies,  (in 
order  that  we  should  not  understand  their  extremity), 
were  neither  thrown  into  the  water  lest  the  brigantines 
might  come  across  them,  nor  were  they  thrown  outside 
their  boundary,  lest  we  should  see  them  about  the  city; 
and  thus,  in  the  streets  they  occupied,  were  found  heaps 
of  dead,  so  that  nobody  could  step  without  trampling 
them.  As  the  people  of  the  city  came  towards  us,  I 
ordered  Spaniards  to  be  stationed  in  all  the  streets,  to 
prevent  our  allies  from  killing  those  unhappy  creatures, 
who  were  beyond  number;  and  I  also  ordered  the  cap- 
tains of  our  allies  not  to  allow  in  any  way  those  fugitives 
to  be  killed,  but,  as  they  were  so  many,  it  was  not  possible 
to  prevent  it  that  day,  so  more  than  fifteen  thousand 
persons  were  massacred.  Meanwhile,  some  of  the  chiefs 
and  warriors  of  the  city  were  brought  to  bay  on  some 
roofs  and  in  the  water,  where  they  could  no  longer  stop, 
or  hide  from  us  all  their  disasters  and  their  weakness 
which  had  become  very  apparent;  and,  seeing  that  the 
afternoon  was  coming  on  us,  and  that  they  would  not 

Third  Letter  127 

surrender,  I  had  two  large  field  pieces  directed  against 
them  to  see  whether  they  would  surrender  then,  because 
they  would  suffer  greater  damage  by  our  giving  per- 
mission to  our  friends  to  attack  them,  than  by  those  two 
field  pieces,  which  caused  some  destruction.  As  this 
also  brought  no  result,  I  ordered  the  signal  of  the  musket 
to  be  fired,  whereupon  the  corner  they  still  held  was  im- 
mediately taken,  and  those  who  were  in  it  were  forced 
into  the  water,  and  others  who  had  not  fought  surren- 
dered. The  brigan tines  swiftly  entered  that  lake,  and 
broke  into  the  midst  of  the  fleet  of  canoes,  and  the 
warriors  no  longer  ventured  to  fight. 

It  pleased  God  that  the  captain  of  a  brigantine,  called 
Garci  Holguin,  overtook  a  canoe  in  which  there  were 
some  distinguished  people,  and,  as  he  had  two  August 
or  three  cross-bowmen  in  the  prow  of  the  J3, 1521 
brigantine,  and  was  crossing  in  the  front  of  the 
canoe,  they  signalled  to  him  not  to  shoot  because 
their  sovereign  was  there.  The  canoe  was  quickly 
captured,  and  they  took  Quatamucin,  *  and  the  lord 
of  Tacuba,  and   the  other  chiefs  who  were  with  him; 

1  Quauhtemotzin,  seeing  that  escape  was  hopeless,  stood  up  in  the 
canoe  saying:  "I  am  the  King  of  Mexico  and  of  this  country;  take 
me  to  Malintzin.  I  ask  only  that  my  wife  and  children  and  the  women 
be  spared."  Some  twenty  persons  were  with  him,  all  of  whom 
Holguin  brought  back  to  the  city.  There  is  little  to  add  to  what  Cortes 
here  says  about  what  passed  on  that  historic  occasion,  except  that  he 
gave  orders  that  the  Princess  Tecuichpo,  youngest  daughter  of  Monte- 
zuma, recently  married  to  her  cousin  Quauhtemotzin  should  receive 
every  consideration.  Humboldt,  commenting  on  Quauhtemotzin's 
choice  of  instant  death,  commends  the  unfortunate  young  sovereign's 
conduct  in  the  following  terms:  "Ce  trait  est  digne  du  plus  beau  temps 
de  la  Grece  et  de  Rome.  Sous  toutes  les  zones,  quelle  que  soit  la  couleur 
des  hommes,  le  langage  des  ames  fortes  est  le  m§me  lorsqu'elles  luttent 
contre  le  malheur"  (Essai  Politique,  p.  192,  4to  ed.).  The  captive 
monarch  was  not  deceived  by  the  suave  manners  and  honied  words 
of  his  captor,  and  his  forebodings  were  realised,  when,  a  few  days  later, 
upon  his  protesting  that  there  was  no  treasure  left  in  the  city,  Cortes 
consented  to  his  torture  to  force  him  to  speak.  Bernal  Diaz  seeks  to 
excuse  Cortes' s  part  in  this  unworthy  proceeding.     It  may  be  said  in 

128  Letters  of  Cortes 

and  the  said  captain,  Garci  Holguin, 1  immediately 
brought  the  said  sovereign  of  the  city  and  the  other 
chief  prisoners  to  the  terrace  where  I  was,  which  was 
near  the  lake.  When  I  invited  them  to  sit  down,  not 
wishing  to  show  any  rigour,  he  approached  me  and 
said  to  me  in  his  language  that  he  had  done  all  that  on 

extenuation  that  he  yielded  to  the  angry  clamours  of  disappointed 
soldiers,  and  the  insinuation  that  he  had  arranged  with  Quauhtemotzin 
to  conceal  the  treasure  so  as  later  to  appropriate  it  for  himself.  The 
custodian  of  the  royal  fifth,  Aldarete,  seems  to  have  insisted  on  the 
torture.  The  king  bore  the  pain  unflinchingly  and  rebuked  his  fellow 
sufferer  who  groaned  aloud,  saying:  "Do  you  think  I  am  taking  my 
pleasure  in  my  bath?"  His  feet  were  almost  burned  off,  and  he  re- 
mained a  cripple  until  his  death.  The  anniversary  of  his  capture  and 
the  fall  of  the  city  were  celebrated  as  a  public  holiday  all  during  the 
period  of  Spanish  rule  in  Mexico,  but  the  Republic  has  abolished  this 
observance.  The  eleventh  and  last  of  the  Aztec  sovereigns  was  the 
son  of  Ahuitzotl;  he  succeeded  Cuitlahuatzin  and  married  his  widow 
Tecuichpo.  He  was  a  young  man  of  great  personal  bravery  and 
energy,  in  all  things  the  opposite  of  his  superstitious  uncle  Montezuma. 
He  worked  indefatigably  to  win  allies,  organise  an  effective  defence, 
and  save  the  tottering  kingdom  and  city ;  he  galvanised  the  timid  into 
something  like  courage,  confirmed  the  waverers,  and  encouraged  the 
patriots;  large  stores  of  arms  and  provisions  were  laid  in,  the  useless, 
aged  men,  and  women  and  children,  were  sent  off  to  safe  places  in 
the  mountains,  while  the  city  was  filled  with  warriors.  The  kings  of 
Texcoco  and  Tlacopan  joined  in  these  plans,  co-operating  with  their 
fellow  sovereign.  Had  like  zeal  and  harmony  existed  a  year  earlier 
Cortes  and  his  men  would  never  have  reached  the  capital,  save  as 
victims  to  be  offered  to  Huitzilopochtli.  Quauhtemotzin  arrived  too 
late.  Nothing  could  ward  off  the  oncoming  disaster.  The  powerful 
states  of  Tlascala,  Cholula,  and  others,  had  openly  gone  over  to  the 
Spaniards,  blind  to  the  inevitable  destruction  they  were  preparing 
for  themselves ;  the  allies  of  Mexico  were  doubtful  and  faint-hearted, — 
some  of  them  merely  neutrals,  awaiting  the  issue  to  declare  for  the 
victor.  Never  did  prince  die  for  duty's  sake,  choosing  death  with 
open  eyes  and  making  a  last  stand  for  a  forlorn  cause,  more  nobly  than 
did  the  heroic  Quauhtemotzin.  His  captivity  and  death  are  noted  in 
the  Fifth  Letter. 

1  While  the  brigantine  with  the  royal  captain  and  his  fellow 
prisoners  was  returning  across  the  lake,  Sandoval  came  on  board  and 
demanded  that  Quauhtemotzin  be  delivered  to  him,  as  he  was  com- 
mander of  that  division  of  the  fleet,  but  Holguin  claimed  the  honour 

Third  Letter  129 

his  part  he  was  bound  to  do  to  defend  himself  and  his 
people,  until  he  was  reduced  to  that  state,  and  that  I 
might  now  do  with  him  as  I  chose ;  and  placing  his  hand 
on  a  dagger  which  I  wore  he  bade  me  stab  him  with  it 
and  kill  him.  I  encouraged  him,  and  told  him  not  to 
be  afraid;  and  this  lord  having  been  made  prisoner,  the 
war  immediately  ceased,  which  God  Our  Lord  was  pleased 
to  bring  to  its  end  on  this  day,  the  Feast  of  San  Hipolito, 
which  was  the  13th  of  August  in  the  year  152 1.  So  that 
from  the  day  when  we  laid  the  siege  to  the  city,  which 
was  the  30th  of  May  of  the  said  year,  until  it  was  taken, 
seventy-five  days  passed,  in  which  Your  Majesty  may 
perceive  the  hardships,  dangers,  and  cruelties,  which 
these,  your  vassals,  suffered,  and  in  which  they  so  ex- 
posed themselves  that  their  deeds  will  bear  testimony 
of  them.  In  all  these  seventy-five  days  of  the  siege, 
none  passed  without  more  or  less  fighting. 

On  the  day  of  the  imprisonment  of  Quatamucin,  and 
of  the  capture  of  the  city,  we  returned  to  camp,  having 
gathered  the  spoils  found  that  day,  and  given  thanks 
to  Our  Lord  for  the  signal  mercy  and  the  much  wished 
for  victory  He  had  granted  us.1      I  remained  in  the 

of  the  capture,  and  refused  to  yield  to  his  superior.  The  dispute  which 
ensued,  delayed  matters,  but  Cortes  who  was  informed  of  the  dissension, 
sent  Luis  Marin  and  Francisco  Lugo  with  peremptory  orders  to  cease 
wrangling,  and  bring  the  prisoners  to  him. 

Bernal  Diaz  relates  that,  afterwards,  the  commander  called  the 
two  claimants,  and  cited  to  them,  by  way  of  example,  the  incident 
from  Roman  history  of  the  capture  of  Jugurtha  and  the  dispute  between 
Marius  and  Sylla  as  to  the  honour  of  that  feat,  which  was  productive 
of  civil  wars  which  devastated  the  state.  He  calmed  them  with  the 
assurance  that  the  circumstance  should  be  fully  laid  before  the  Em- 
peror, who  would  decide  which  of  the  two  should  have  the  action 
emblazoned  in  his  arms.  Two  years  later,  the  imperial  decision  was 
given,  and  ignored  both  the  contestants,  granting  instead  to  Cortes 
himself  the  device  of  seven  captive  kings,  linked  with  a  chain  and 
representing  Montezuma,  Quauhtemotzin,  and  the  rulers  of  Texcoco, 
Tlapocan,  Iztapalapan,  Coyohuacan,  and  Matolzingo. 

»  See  Appendix  at  close  of  this  Letter. 
vol.  11. — 9 

130  Letters  of  Cortes 

camp  for  three  or  four  days,  and  afterwards  we  came  to 
the  city  of  Cuyoacan  where  I  have  remained  until  now, 
providing  for  the  good  order  and  government  and  pacifi- 
cation of  these  parts.  Having  collected  the  gold  and 
other  things,  we  had  them  melted,  with  the  approbation 
of  Your  Majesty's  officials,  and  what  was  melted  amounted 
to  one  hundred  and  thirty  thousand  castellanos,  of  which 
one  fifth  was  given  to  the  treasury  of  Your  Majesty,  be- 
sides one  fifth  of  other  duties  belonging  to  Your  Majesty, 
such  as  slaves  and  other  things,  as  will  be  more  exten- 
sively seen  from  the  account  of  all  belonging  to  Your 
Majesty,  which  will  go  signed  with  our  names.  The 
remaining  gold  was  distributed  amongst  myself  and  the 
Spaniards,  according  to  the  conduct,  service,  and  quality 
of  each.  Besides  the  said  gold,  there  were  certain  made 
pieces,  and  jewels  of  gold,  of  which  the  best  was  given 
to  the  treasurer  of  Your  Majesty. 

Amongst  the  plunder  which  was  obtained  from  the 
said  city,  many  bucklers  of  gold  were  found;  plumes, 
and  feather  work,  and  things  so  marvellous  that  they 
cannot  be  described  in  writing,  nor  can  they  be  com- 
prehended without  being  seen.  And  being  such  as 
they  are,  it  seemed  to  me  they  should  not  be  divided 
but  should  all  be  placed  at  the  disposition  of  Your 
Majesty,  for  which  purpose  I  assembled  all  the  Spaniards, 
and  besought  them  to  approve  of  all  these  things  being 
sent  to  Your  Majesty,  and  that  the  shares  belonging 
to  them  and  me  should  be  placed  at  Your  Majesty's 
disposition,  which  they  rejoiced  in  doing  with  much 
good  will.  They  and  I  send  them  for  Your  Majesty's 
acceptance  by  the  procurators  whom  the  council  of 
this  New  Spain  has  deputed. 

As  the  city  of  Temixtitan  was  so  important,  and  so 
renowned  throughout  these  parts,  it  seems  it  came  to 
the  knowledge  of  the  lord  of  a  very  great  province, 
seventy  leagues  distant  from  Temixtitan,  called  Mechua- 

Third  Letter  131 

can,1  how  we  had  destroyed  and  desolated  it,  and,  con- 
sidering the  strength  and  grandeur  of  the  said  city, 
it  seemed  to  the  lord  of  that  province  that,  inasmuch 
as  it  could  not  defend  itself,  there  was  nothing  which 
could  resist  us.  So,  from  fear  or  whatever  cause  he 
chose,  he  sent  certain  messengers,  who,  through  the 
interpreters  of  his  language,  told  me  on  his  part,  that 
their  lord  had  learned  that  we  were  vassals  of  a  great 
ruler,  and  that,  with  my  approval,  he  and  his  people 
desired  to  become  vassals  and  have  friendship  with  us. 
I  answered  that  it  was  true  that  we  were  all  of  us  the 
vassals  of  that  great  ruler,  who  was  Your  Majesty,  and 
that  we  would  make  war  upon  those  who  refused  likewise 
to  be  so,  and  that  their  lord  and  they  had  done  very 
well.  As  I  had  received  news  some  short  time  since 
of  the  South  Sea,  I  also  inquired  of  them  whether 
it  could  be  reached  through  their  country;  and  as  they 
answered  me  affirmatively,  I  prayed  them  to  take  with 
them  two  Spaniards,  whom  I  would  give  them,  so  that 
I  might  inform  Your  Majesty  about  that  sea  and  their 
province.  They  replied  that  they  were  glad  to  do  so  with 
much  good  will,  but  that,  to  reach  the  sea,  they  would 
have  to  pass  through  the  country  of  a  great  lord,  with 
whom  they  were  at  war,  and  for  this  reason  they  could 
not  now  reach  the  sea.  The  messengers  from  Mechuacan 
remained  here  with  me  three  or  four  days,  and  I  made 
the  horsemen  skirmish  for  them,  in  order  that  they  might 
describe  it,  and,  having  given  them  certain  jewels,  they 
and  the  two  Spaniards  set  out  for  the  said  province  of 

As  I  said  in  the  foregoing  chapter,  Most  Powerful  Lord, 

1  Michoacan  was  an  independent  kingdom,  peopled  by  a  different 
race  from  the  Mexicans,  and  speaking  a  different  language,  though  it 
shared  to  some  degree  the  manners,  customs,  and  civilisation  of 
Anahuac:  the  chief  city  was  Pazuaro  on  the  lake  of  the  same  name. 
There  was  an  almost  permanent  state  of  hostilities  between  the 
Tarasque  (tribal  name  of  the  natives  of  Michoacan)  and  Aztec  nations. 

132  Letters  of  Cortes 

I  had  obtained  a  short  time  ago  information  of  another 
sea  to  the  south,  and  had  learned  that,  in  two  or 
Expeditions tnree  different  directions,  it  was  twelve  or  four- 
to  the  teen  days'  journey  from  here.   I  was  very  much 

Pacific  concerned  because  it  seemed  to  me  that  in  dis- 
covering it  a  great  and  signal  service  would  be 
rendered  to  Your  Majesty,  especially  as  all  who  have 
any  knowledge  or  experience  of  the  navigation  in  the 
Indies  have  held  it  to  be  certain  that,  with  the  discovery 
of  the  South  Sea  in  these  parts,  many  islands  rich  in  gold, 
pearls,  precious  stones,  spices,  and  other  unknown  and 
admirable  things  would  be  discovered :  and  this  has  been 
and  is  affirmed  by  persons  of  learning  and  experience  in 
the  science  of  cosmography.  With  this  desire,  and  wish- 
ing to  render  Your  Majesty  this  most  singular  and  ad- 
mirable service,  I  dispatched  four  Spaniards,  two  through 
certain  provinces,  and  the  other  two  through  certain 
others;  and,  having  first  informed  myself  of  the  routes 
they  were  to  take,  and  giving  them  guides  from  amongst 
our  friends,  they  departed.  I  ordered  them  not  to  stop 
until  they  had  reached  the  sea,  and,  upon  discovering 
it,  to  take  actual  and  corporeal  possession  of  it  in  the 
name  of  Your  Majesty. 

The  first  travelled  about  one  hundred  and  thirty 
leagues  through  many  beautiful  and  fair  provinces  without 
encountering  any  hindrance,  and  arrived  at  the  sea,  and 
took  possession  of  it,  in  sign  of  which  they  placed  crosses 
on  the  coast  of  it.  Some  days  afterwards,  they  returned 
with  an  account  of  the  said  discovery,  and  informed  me 
very  minutely  of  everything,  bringing  me  some  of  the 
natives  of  the  said  sea  [coast]  and  also  very  good  samples 
from  the  gold  mines,  which  they  found  in  some  of  those 
provinces  through  which  they  passed;  I  send  these,  with 
the  other  samples  of  gold,  to  Your  Majesty.  The  other 
two  Spaniards  were  somewhat  longer,  because  they 
travelled  about  one  hundred  and  fifty  leagues  through 

Third  Letter  133 

other  parts  until  they  reached  the  sea,  of  which  they 
likewise  took  possession.  They  brought  me  a  full  de- 
scription of  the  coast,  and,  with  them,  came  some  natives 
of  it.  I  received  them  and  the  others  graciously,  and 
they,  having  been  informed  of  Your  Majesty's  great 
power,  and  given  some  presents,  returned  very  contented 
to  their  country. 

In  the  other  account,  Most  Catholic  Lord,  I  told  Your 
Majesty,  how,  when  these  Indians  routed  and  expelled 
me  from  the  city  of  Temixtitan  the  first  time,  all  the 
provinces  subject  to  the  city  rebelled  against  the  service 
of  Your  Majesty,  and  made  war  upon  us;  and,  by  this 
account,  Your  Majesty  may  seehow  we  reduced  to  Your 
Royal  service  almost  all  the  provinces  which  had  rebelled. 
Certain  provinces  on  the  coast  of  the  North  Sea  at  ten, 
fifteen,  and  thirty  leagues'  distance  from  the  said  city  of 
Temixtitan,  had  revolted  and  rebelled,  and  their  natives 
had  treacherously  killed  certainly  more  than  one  hundred 
Spaniards  who  had  thought  themselves  safe.  I  could 
not  possibly  proceed  against  them  before  the  conclusion 
of  the  war,  so,  after  I  had  dispatched  those  Spaniards 
who  had  first  discovered  the  South  Sea,  I  determined  to 
send  Gonzalo  de  Sandoval,  alguacil  mayor,  with  thirty- 
five  horsemen,  two  hundred  Spaniards,  some  of  our 
allies,  and  some  of  the  chiefs  and  natives  of  Temixtitan, 
to  this  province,  which  we  called  Tatactetelco  and 
Tuxtepeque  and  Guatuxco  and  Aulicaba;  and,  having 
been  instructed  how  to  conduct  this  expedition,  he 
began  his  preparations  for  it. 

At  this  season,  the  lieutenant,  whom  I  had  left  in  the 
town  of  La  Segura  de  la  Frontera,  in  the  province  of 
Tepeaca,  came  to  this  city  of  Cuyoacan,  and  informed 
me  how  some  of  the  natives  of  that  province  and  other 
neighbouring  ones,  vassals  of  Your  Majesty,  were  trou- 
bled by  the  natives  of  the  provinces  of  Guaxacaque 
[Oaxaca]  who  made  war  on  them  because  they  were  our 

134  Letters  of  Cortes 

friends,  and,  besides  it  being  necessary  to  correct  this 
evil,  it  was  well  to  secure  that  province  of  Guaxacaque, 
because  it  was  on  the  road  to  the  South  Sea,  and  to 
pacify  it  would  be  very  advantageous  as  well  for  the 
aforesaid  as  for  other  reasons,  which  I  will  hereafter  state 
to  Your  Majesty.  The  said  lieutenant  told  me  that  he  had 
privately  received  information  respecting  that  province, 
and  that  we  could  subjugate  it  with  a  small  force,  because, 
while  I  was  in  the  camp  against  Temixtitan,  he  had  gone 
there,  as  those  of  Tepeaca  had  urged  him  to  make  war 
upon  the  natives  of  it,  but,  not  having  taken  more  than 
twenty  or  thirty  Spaniards  they  had  forced  him  to  return, 
less  leisurely  than  he  would  have  wished.  Having  heard 
his  relation  I  gave  him  twelve  horsemen  and  eight  Span- 
iards, and  the  said  alguacil  mayor  and  the  lieutenant 
left  this  city  of  Guaxacaque  on  the  15th  October,  152 1. 

When  they  reached  the  province  of  Tepeaca,  they 
there  made  their  review,  and  each  departed  on  his  con- 
quest. The  alguacil  mayor  wrote  to  me  five  days  later 
that  he  had  arrived  at  the  province  of  Guatuxco,  and 
that,  although  he  had  much  apprehension  that  he  would 
find  himself  in  straits  with  the  enemy  as  they  were  very 
skilful  in  war  and  had  many  forces  in  the  country,  it  had 
pleased  Our  Lord  that  he  should  be  received  peaceably; 
and  that,  although  he  had  not  reached  the  other  provinces 
he  felt  sure  that  all  the  natives  of  them  would  offer 
themselves  as  vassals  of  Your  Majesty.  Fifteen  days 
later,  other  letters  of  his  arrived  in  which  he  reported 
to  me  that  he  had  advanced,  and  that  the  whole  of  the 
country  was  already  at  peace,  and  that  it  seemed  to  him 
it  would  be  well  to  settle  in  the  most  accessible  parts  and 
thus  make  sure  of  it,  as  we  had  already  discussed  many 
times  before,  and  for  me  to  decide  what  should  be  done 
in  the  matter.  I  wrote,  thanking  him  very  much  for 
what  he  had  done  on  his  expedition  in  the  service  of  Your 
Majesty,  telling  him  that  all  he  reported  about  settling 

Third  Letter  135 

was  approved  by  me,  and  I  sent  him  word  to  establish  a 
town  of  Spaniards  in  the  province  of  Tuxtepeque,  and 
to  call  it  Medellin, l  I  sent  the  appointment  of  alcaldes 
and  municipal  officials,  all  of  whom  I  charged  to  look 
after  Your  Majesty's  service  and  the  good  treatment  of 
the  natives.  The  Lieutenant  of  Segura  de  la  Frontera 
departed  with  his  people  for  the  province  of  Guaxaca 
with  many  friendly  warriors  from  that  neighbourhood, 
and,  although  the  natives  of  that  province  set  themselves 
to  resist,  and  fought  two  or  three  times  very  stoutly 
against  him,  they  finally  surrendered  peacefully  without 
sustaining  any  damage ;  he  wrote  very  minutely  respecting 
all  this,  informing  me  that  the  country  was  very  good, 
and  rich  in  mines,  and  he  sent  me  a  very  remarkable 
sample  of  gold  from  it,  which  I  also  forward  to  Your 
Majesty;  and  he  remained  in  the  said  province  awaiting 
my  commands. 

Having  taken  measures  for  the  accomplishment  of 
these  two  conquests,  and  having  heard  of  the  good 
success  of  them,  and  seeing  how  I  had  Rebuilding 
already  peopled    three   towns   with   Spaniards  of 

and  that  a  number  of  them  still  remained  with  Mexico 
me  in  this  city,  I  debated  where  to  establish  another 
town  within  the  circuit  of  the  lakes  ;  for  it  was 
needed  for  the  greater  security  and  peace  of  all  these 
parts.  Considering  also  that  the  city  of  Temixtitan, 
which  was  a  thing  so  renowned  and  had  made  itself  so 
important  and  memorable,  it  seemed  to  us  that  it  was 
well  to  rebuild  it,  for  it  was  all  destroyed.  I  distributed 
the  lots  to  those  who  offered  themselves  as  householders, 
and  I  appointed  the  alcaldes  and  municipal  officers  in 
the  name  of  Your  Majesty,  as  is  customary  in  your  king- 
doms; and,  while  the  houses  were  being  built,  we  agreed 
to  continue  living  in  this  city  of  Cuyoacan,  where  we 
are  at  present.     In  the  four  or  five  months  since  the 

*  Named  after  Cortes's  birthplace  in  Estremadura. 

136  Letters  of  Cortes 

rebuilding  of  the  said  city  of  Temixtitan  was  begun  it  is 
already  very  beautiful,  and  Your  Majesty  may  believe 
that  each  day  it  will  become  nobler,  so  that  as  it  was 
before  the  head  and  mistress  of  all  these  provinces,  so 
it  will  be  henceforward;  it  is  being  and  will  be  so  built 
that  the  Spaniards  will  be  perfectly  strong  and  safe,  and 
supreme  lords  of  the  natives,  secure  from  any  fear  of 
being  assailed  by  them. 

In  the  meantime,  the  chief  of  the  province  of  Tecoan- 
tepeque,  which  is  near  the  South  Sea  where  the  two 
Spaniards  discovered  it,  sent  me  certain  notables  by 
whom  he  offered  himself  as  vassal  of  Your  Majesty,  and 
made  me  a  present  of  certain  jewels,  pieces  of  gold,  and 
feather  work,  all  of  which  was  delivered  to  the  treasurer 
of  Your  Majesty;  I  thanked  the  messengers  for  what 
they  told  me  on  behalf  of  their  chief,  and  I  gave  them 
certain  presents  which  they  took  and  returned  very 

At  this  season,  those  two  Spaniards  returned  from 
the  province  of  Mechuacan,  whence  the  messengers  had 
come  from  that  chief,  and  told  me  that  the  South  Sea 
could  be  reached  by  that  way,  except  that  it  had  to  be 
done  through  the  country  of  a  chief  who  was  his  enemy. 
A  brother  of  the  chief  of  Mechuacan  came  with  the  two 
Spaniards,  and  other  chiefs  and  servants  with  him,  ex- 
ceeding two  thousand  persons,  whom  I  received,  showing 
great  love  towards  them;  and  they  gave  me  on  the  part 
of  the  chief  of  the  said  province,  who  is  called  Calcucin, 
a  present  for  Your  Majesty  of  shields  of  gold,  weighing 
[word  missing]  marks,  and  many  other  things  which  were 
delivered  to  Your  Majesty's  treasurer.  To  show  them 
our  customs,  and  let  them  report  to  their  chief,  I  had  all 
the  horsemen  ride  to  the  square,  where  they  manoeuvred 
and  skirmished,  the  foot  soldiers  marching  in  file,  and 
the  musketeers  firing  their  muskets  and  firing  with  the 
artillery  against  the  tower.     The  chiefs  were  all  dread- 

Third  Letter  137 

fully  frightened  to  see  the  effect  it  made,  and  to  see 
the  horses  manoeuvring;  then  I  had  them  taken  to  see 
the  destruction  and  desolation  of  the  city  of  Temixtitan, 
and  they  were  astonished  on  beholding  it  and  its  strength 
and  its  fortress,  situated  as  it  was  in  the  water.  After 
four  or  five  days,  I  gave  them  for  their  chief  many  such 
things  as  they  esteemed,  and  others  for  themselves,  so 
they  departed  very  happy  and  satisfied. 

I  have  heretofore  made  relation  to  Your  Majesty  about 
the  river  of  Panuco,  which  is  fifty  or  sixty  leagues  down 
the  coast  from  the  city  of  Vera  Cruz,  where  the  ships 
of  Francisco  de  Garay  had  gone  two  or  three  times  and 
received  a  good  deal  of  hurt  from  the  natives  of  the  said 
river  on  account  of  the  little  tact  which  the  captains  who 
had  been  sent  there  had  shown  in  the  traffic  they  at- 
tempted to  establish  with  the  Indians.  Afterwards, 
when  I  perceived  that  on  the  whole  coast  of  the  South 
Sea  there  was  a  lack  of  harbours,  and  that  none  was 
equal  to  the  harbour  of  that  river,  and  also  because  those 
natives,  after  coming  to  me  to  offer  themselves  as  vassals 
of  Your  Majesty,  are  making  war  against  the  vassals  of 
Your  Majesty,  our  friends,  I  felt  it  very  necessary  to  send 
a  captain  there  with  a  force  to  pacify  all  that  province, 
and,  if  the  country  was  a  likely  one  for  settlement,  to 
establish  a  town  on  that  river,  so  that  the  entire  neigh- 
bourhood might  be  assured.  Although  we  were  few  and 
scattered  in  three  or  four  places,  from  which  reason  there 
was  some  opposition  to  taking  more  people  from  here, 
nevertheless,  both  in  order  to  help  our  friends,  and 
because,  after  the  taking  of  the  city  of  Temixtitan, 
ships  had  arrived  bringing  some  people  and  horses, 
I  prepared  twenty-five  horsemen  and  one  hundred 
and  fifty  foot  soldiers  to  go  with  their  captain  to  the 
said  river. 

While  engaged  in  dispatching  this  captain,  they  wrote 
to  me  from  Vera  Cruz  that  a  ship  had  arrived  in  its  port, 

138  Letters  of  Cortes 

in  which  there  came  Cristobal  de  Tapia,  '  inspector 
of  the  foundries  in  the  island  of  Hispaniola.  I  re- 
Arrival  of  ceived  a  letter  from  him  the  next  day  after- 
Cristobal  wards,  in  which  he  made  known  to  me  that 
de  Tapia  fog  coming  to  this  country  was  for  the 
purpose  of  taking  charge  of  its  government  by  order 
of  Your  Majesty;  for  this  purpose  he  said  he  had 
brought  the  royal  provisions,  but  would  in  no  wise 
present  them  until  we  met,  which  he  desired  should 
happen  immediately.  As  his  animals  had  been 
fatigued  at  sea,  he  had  not  begun  his  journey  and  he 
prayed  me  to  give  orders  how  we  might  see  each  other, 
either  by  his  coming  hither  or  my  going  to  the  sea-coast. 
Immediately  I  received  his  letter,  I  answered  it,  saying 
that  I  rejoiced  at  his  arrival,  and  that  nobody  could  have 
come  provided  with  Your  Majesty's  orders  for  holding 
the  government  of  these  parts  whom  I  would  receive  with 
more  satisfaction,  not  only  on  account  of  our  mutual 
acquaintance,  but  also  as  fellow  neighbours  and  early 
settlers  in  the  island  of  Hispaniola, 

Since  the  pacification  of  these  parts  was  not  so  com- 
plete as  it  should  be,  and  any  novelty  would  disquiet 
the  natives,  I  besought  Fray  Pedro  Melgarejo  de  Urrea, 
commissary  of  the  Cruzada,2  (who  accompanied  us  in  all 

1  When  the  news  of  Narvaez's  summary  treatment  of  the  com- 
missioner from  the  audiencia  of  Hispaniola,  Ayllon,  reached  Spain, 
proceedings  were  begun  against  him,  but  the  Bishop  of  Burgos,  always 
active  in  Velasquez's  interests,  secured  their  suspension  until  fuller 
information  might  be  had,  and  also  the  release  of  Narvaez  from  the 
prison  in  Vera  Cruz,  where  Cortes  had  confined  him.  Cristobal  de 
Tapia,  an  inspector  of  the  royal  smelting  operations  in  Hispaniola 
was  therefore  despatched  to  Vera  Cruz,  with  full  powers  to  deal  with 
the  matter;  he  was  hardly  the  man  for  the  mission,  and  was  as  little 
able  to  cope  with  Cortes  as  Narvaez  had  been. 

2  He  was  a  Franciscan  friar,  empowered  to  administer  the 
Bulas  de  la  Cruzada.  The  indulgences  provided  by  such  bulls  were 
granted  on  the  usual  conditions  required  for  obtaining  an  indulgence, 
and  were  applicable  to  the  living  and  the  dead.  This  usage  originated, 
as  the  title  indicates,  with  the  Crusades,  and  after  it  had  fallen  into 

Third  Letter  139 

our  hardships  and  well  knew  the  state  of  things  here, 
making  himself  so  useful  in  Your  Majesty's  service  that 
we  had  availed  ourselves  of  his  devotion  and  advice),  to 
go  and  see  the  said  Tapia,  and  to  examine  the  warrants 
of  Your  Majesty;  and,  since  he  knew  better  than  anyone 
else  what  was  profitable  to  your  royal  service  in  these 
parts,  to  come  to  some  agreement  with  the  said  Tapia 
as  to  what  was  most  advantageous,  for  I  conceived  that 
he  would  not  exceed  them  in  any  way.  I  besought  him 
thus  in  the  presence  of  Your  Majesty's  treasurer,  who 
also  charged  him  in  the  same  sense.  He  departed  for 
the  city  of  Vera  Cruz  where  the  said  Tapia  was  staying; 
and  to  insure  that,  in  the  city  or  wherever  the  Inspector 
might  come,  he  would  be  well  served  and  accommodated, 
I  sent  two  or  three  notable  persons  with  the  said  Father. 
After  they  left,  I  awaited  his  answer. 

Meanwhile  I  was  preparing  for  my  departure,  giving  or- 
ders about  some  things  necessary  to  Your  Majesty's  service, 
and  for  the  pacification  and  quieting  of  these  parts.  Some 
ten  or  twelve  days  afterwards  the  justice  and  Municipal 
Council  of  Vera  Cruz  wrote  to  me  that  the  said  Tapia 
had  presented  the  provisions  he  brought  from  Your 
Majesty  and  your  governors  in  your  royal  name,  and  that 
they  had  been  received  with  all  due  reverence,  but  as 
for  executing  them,  they  had  answered  that  as  most 
of  the  Municipal  Council  were  here  with  me,  aiding  in  the 
siege  of  the  city,  they  would  report  to  them,  and  all 
would  do  and  comply  with  what  was  most  profitable 
to  Your  Majesty's  service  and  the  good  of  the  country. 
The  said  Tapia  was  somewhat  displeased  by  this  reply, 
and  had  even  attempted  something  scandalous.  As  this 
grieved  me  somewhat,  I  replied,  praying  and  charging 

disuse  elsewhere,  was  continued  in  Spain  owing  to  the  long  centuries 
of  warfare  against  the  Moors  and  the  later  conflicts  with  the  Barbary 
pirates.  It  became  therefore  a  peculiarly  Spanish  institution,  and 
was  extended  to  all  countries  under  Spanish  rule. 

140  Letters  of  Cortes 

them  very  much  to  look  chiefly  to  Your  Majesty's  service, 
endeavouring  to  satisfy  the  said  Tapia  and  not  to  give 
occasion  for  any  tumult  as  I  was  about  starting  to  see 
him,  ready  to  comply  with  what  Your  Majesty  had 
ordered  and  was  most  suitable  to  your  service.  Being 
on  the  very  eve  of  starting  on  my  journey,  and  the  captain 
and  people,  whom  I  intended  to  send  to  the  river  Panuco, 
having  been  detained  here,  where  it  was  necessary,  while 
I  was  away  for  this  city  to  remain  well  guarded,  the 
Procurators  of  this  New  Spain  requested  me  with  many 
protestations  not  to  leave,  because,  as  this  entire  province 
of  Mexico  and  Temixtitan  had  only  recently  been  pacified, 
it  would  be  disturbed  by  my  absence,  and  much  injury 
would  be  done  to  the  service  of  Your  Majesty  and  to  the 
tranquillity  of  the  country;  they  gave  many  other  causes 
and  reasons  for  their  said  requirement  that  I  should  not 
leave  this  city  at  that  present  time,  and  they  told  me 
they  would  go  themselves  to  the  city  of  Vera  Cruz  where 
the  said  Tapia  was  staying,  with  power  of  attorney  from 
the  councillors,  and  would  see  the  warrants  of  Your 
Majesty  and  do  all  that  was  suitable  to  Your  Royal  service. 
As  this  seemed  to  us  expedient,  the  said  procurators  left, 
and  I  wrote  to  the  said  Tapia  letting  him  know  what  was 
happening,  and  that  I  was  sending  my  power  of  attorney 
to  Gonzalo  de  Sandoval,  alguacil  mayor,  and  to  Diego 
de  Soto  and  Diego  Valdenebro,  who  were  there  in  the 
town  of  Vera  Cruz,  in  order  that  in  my  name,  they  to- 
gether with  the  municipal  councillors  and  procurators  of 
their  municipal  councils,  might  take  measures  to  do  what 
was  suitable  to  Your  Majesty's  service  and  for  the  good 
of  the  country;  for  they  have  been  and  are  persons  who 
would  do  so.  They  met  Tapia,  who  was  already  on  the 
road,  accompanied  by  Fray  Pedro,  and  required  him 
to  return  to  the  city  of  Cempoal,  and  there  Tapia  pre- 
sented Your  Majesty's  provisions  which  were  received 
by  all,  with  the  submission  due  to  Your  Majesty.     As 

Third  Letter  141 

for  executing  them,  they  appealed  that  to  the  presence 
of  Your  Majesty,  because  such  was  advantageous  to  your 
royal  service  for  the  causes  and  reasons  apparent  in  their 
same  petition,  and  as  will  appear  more  fully  from  what 
passed;  all  of  which  the  procurators  who  came  from  this 
New  Spain  carried,  signed  by  a  public  notary.  After 
exchanging  other  decrees  and  requirements  between  the 
said  inspector  and  the  procurators,  he  embarked  in  his 
ship  as  he  was  required  to  do,  because,  after  publishing 
that  he  had  come  to  be  governor  and  captain  of  these 
parts  his  presence  had  caused  some  disquietude,  and  the 
people  of  Mexico  and  Temixtitan  had  plotted  that  the 
natives  here  should  rebel  and  work  a  great  treason,  which, 
if  it  had  been  carried  out  would  have  been  worse  than 
the  past.  The  plan  was,  that  certain  Indians  who  were 
in  Mexico,  agreeing  with  the  natives  of  this  province 
which  the  alguacil  mayor  had  gone  to  pacify,  should  come 
to  me  in  all  haste,  telling  me  that  twenty  ships  had 
arrived  on  the  coast  with  a  great  many  people,  and  that, 
as  they  had  not  come  on  land,  they  could  not  be  good 
people,  and  that  I  should  come  there  and  see  what  was 
the  matter,  they  having  prepared  themselves,  and  go- 
ing with  me  as  warriors;  and,  to  make  me  believe  this, 
they  brought  me  a  drawing  of  the  ships  on  paper.  As 
they  brought  me  this  news  secretly,  I  immediately 
divined  that  their  intention  was  mischievous,  and  its 
purpose  was  to  get  me  out  of  this  province,  for  the  chiefs 
of  it  had  known  all  these  past  days  that  I  had  been  pre- 
pared to  march,  but  seeing  that  I  remained  quiet  they 
devised  this  plan.  I  dissembled  with  them,  and  after- 
wards captured  some  who  had  invented  the  plot. 

The  coming  of  the  said  Tapia  and  his  want  of  experience 
of  the  country  and  its  people  caused  a  great  deal  of  con- 
fusion, and  his  remaining  here  would  have  done  much 
harm,  had  not  God  remedied  it,  and  he  would  have  done 
better  service  to  Your  Majesty,  if  when  he  was  in  the 

142  Letters  of  Cortes 

island  of  Hispaniola  he  had  refrained  from  coming,  with- 
out first  consulting  Your  Majesty,  and  making  known  the 
condition  of  things  in  these  parts.  For  he  had  learned 
from  the  ships  I  had  sent  to  the  said  island  for  help,  and 
knew  clearly  that  the  scandal  it  was  hoped  to  create 
by  the  coming  of  the  armada  of  Panfilo  de  Narvaez  had 
been  remedied,  principally  by  what  the  governors  and 
royal  council  of  Your  Majesty  had  provided;  and  more 
still,  for  the  said  Tapia  had  been  required  many  times 
by  the  Admiral  and  the  judges  and  officials  of  Your 
Majesty  who  reside  in  the  said  island  of  Hispaniola  not 
to  interfere  in  these  parts  without  Your  Majesty  first 
being  informed  of  everything  that  had  happened,  and 
hence  they  forbade  his  coming  under  certain  penalties; 
but  by  scheming  and  looking  more  to  his  private  interest 
than  to  Your  Majesty's  service  he  obtained  the  revoca- 
tion of  the  prohibition.  I  relate  all  this  to  Your  Majesty, 
because,  when  the  said  Tapia  left,  the  procurators  and 
myself  did  not  send  a  report,  for  he  would  not  have  been 
a  good  carrier  of  our  letters,  and  also  that  Your  Majesty 
may  see  and  believe  that,  in  not  having  received  the 
said  Tapia,  Your  Majesty  had  been  well  served,  as  will  be 
more  fully  proven  as  often  as  may  be  necessary. 

In  a  chapter  before  this,  I  made  known  to  Your  Majesty 
that  the  captain,  whom  I  had  sent  to  conquer  the  province 
of  Guaxaca,  was  waiting  there  for  my  commands,  and, 
as  he  was  needed,  and  was  judge  and  lieutenant  in  the 
town  of  Segura  de  la  Frontera,  I  wrote  to  him  to  give 
the  eighty  men  and  ten  horsemen  whom  he  had  to  Pedro 
de  Alvarado.  The  latter  I  had  sent  to  subjugate  the 
province  of  Tututepeque,  forty  leagues  beyond  Guaxaca 
near  the  South  Sea,  where  they  did  much  damage  to, 
and  made  war  against,  those  who  had  given  themselves 
as  Your  Majesty's  vassals,  and  to  those  of  the  province 
of  Tututepeque,  because  they  had  allowed  us  to  come 
through  their  country  to  discover  the  South  Sea.     Pedro 

Third  Letter  143 

de  Alvarado  left  this  said  city  the  last  of  January  of  this 
present  year,  and,  with  the  people  he  took  from  here,  and 
with  those  he  got  in  the  province  of  Guaxaca,  he  united 
forty  horsemen,  two  hundred  foot  soldiers,  aided'  by 
forty  archers  and  musketeers,  and  two  small  field  pieces. 
Twenty  days  later,  I  received  letters  from  the  said  Pedro 
de  Alvarado,  saying  that  he  was  on  the  road  towards 
the  province  of  Tututepeque,  and  he  told  me  that  he  had 
captured  certain  native  spies,  and  obtained  information 
from  them;  for  they  had  told  him  that  the  lord  of  Tutu- 
tepeque and  his  people  were  expecting  him  on  the  field 
and  he  was  determined  to  do  in  that  journey  all  he  possibly 
could  to  pacify  that  province,  and  besides  the  Spaniards 
had  collected  many  and  good  warriors. 

While  waiting  to  hear  the  end  of  all  this  business,  I 
received  letters  on  the  4th  of  the  month  of  March  of  the 
same  year  from  the  said  Pedro  de  Alvarado  in  which  he 
reported  to  me  that  he  had  entered  that  province,  and 
that  three  or  four  towns  of  it  had  set  themselves  to  resist 
him,  but  had  not  persevered  in  it,  and  that  he  had  en- 
tered the  town  and  city  of  Tututepeque,  and  had  been 
well  received  as  far  as  appearances  went;  and  that  the 
chief  had  asked  him  to  lodge  there  in  some  of  his  great 
houses,  which  were  thatched  with  straw,  but  that,  inas- 
much as  the  place  was  not  very  suitable  for  the  horsemen, 
he  had  not  accepted,  but  had  come  down  to  a  part  of  the 
city  which  was  more  level;  that  he  had  also  done  this 
because  he  had  learned  that  the  chief  had  planned  to  kill 
him  and  all  of  them,  by  setting  fire  at  midnight  to  the 
houses  where  the  Spaniards  were  lodged. 

When  God  had  disclosed  this  baseness,  he  had  feigned 
ignorance  and,  as  if  accidentally,  had  carried  the  chief 
and  his  son  with  him  and  had  decided  to  keep  them  in  his 
power  as  prisoners;  they  had  given  him  twenty-five 
thousand  castellanos  and  from  what  the  vassals  of  that 
chief  had  told  him,  he  believed  there  were  great  treas- 

144  Letters  of  Cortes 

ures.  The  whole  of  the  province  was  as  pacified  as 
possible,  and  they  carried  on  their  markets  and  com- 
merce as  before.  The  country  was  very  rich  in  gold 
mines,  for  in  his  presence  they  had  taken  out  a  sample 
which  was  sent  to  me.  Three  days  before,  he  had  been  to 
the  sea,  and  taken  possession  of  it  for  Your  Majesty,  where, 
in  his  presence,  they  had  taken  out  a  sample  of  pearls 
which  he  likewise  sent  to  me,  and  which  I  sent  to  Your 
Majesty,  together  with  the  sample  from  the  gold  mines. 

As  God,  Our  Lord,  had  well  guided  this  business,  and 
fulfilled  my  desire  to  serve  Your  Majesty  on  this  South 
Sea,  being  as  it  is  of  such  importance,  I  have  provided 
with  so  much  diligence  that,  in  one  of  the  three  places 
where  I  discovered  the  sea,  two  medium-sized  caravels 
and  two  brigantines  are  being  built :  the  caravels  for  the 
purpose  of  discovering,  and  the  brigantines  to  follow 
the  coast.  For  this  purpose,  I  sent,  under  a  reliable  per- 
son, forty  Spaniards,  amongst  whom  go  ship-masters, 
ship-carpenters,  wood-sawyers,  blacksmiths,  and  seamen ; 
and  I  have  sent  to  the  city  for  nails,  sails,  and  other 
things  necessary  for  the  said  ships,  and  all  possible  haste 
will  be  used  to  finish  and  launch  them.  Your  Majesty 
may  believe  that  it  will  be  a  great  thing  to  accomplish 
this,  and  the  greatest  service  since  the  Indies  have  been 
discovered  will  be  thus  rendered  to  Your  Majesty. 

While  I  was  in  the  city  of  Tesaico,  before  we  laid  siege 
to  Temixtitan,  preparing  and  furnishing  ourselves  with 
Conspiracy  *he  necessities  for  the  said  siege,  and  entirely 
of  unaware  of  what  certain   persons   were  plot- 

Villafana  ting,  one  of  the  conspirators  warned  me  that 
certain  friends  of  Diego  Velasquez,  who  were  in  my 
company,  had  treasonably  plotted  to  kill  me,  and 
that  amongst  them  they  had  elected  a  captain,  an 
alcalde,  and  alguacil  mayor,  and  other  officials.  My 
informer  begged  that  I  should  thwart  this  by  all 
means,  for,  besides  the  scandal  which  would  follow,  re- 

Third  Letter  145 

specting  my  person,  it  was  clear  that  not  a  Spaniard 
would  escape,  for,  seeing  us  turned  against  one  another 
not  only  would  we  find  the  enemy  against  us,  but  even 
those  whom  we  regarded  as  friends  would  join  in  and 
finish  with  all  of  us.  I  thanked  Our  Lord,  because  in 
the  discovery  of  this  treachery  lay  the  remedy.  We 
immediately  seized  the  principal  offender,  who  spon- 
taneously confessed  that  he  had  designed  and  planned, 
with  many  persons  whom  he  betrayed  in  his  confession, 
to  assault  and  kill  us,  and  to  take  the  Government  of 
the  country  for  Diego  Velasquez,  and  that  it  was  true  he 
had  designed  to  appoint  captains  and  alcaldes,  and  tlret 
he  himself  was  to  be  the  alguacil  mayor,  and  that  he  was 
to  seize  and  kill  me.  Many  persons  were  involved  in 
this,  whom  he  had  placed  on  a  list  which  was  found  in 
his  lodgings  (although  torn  in  pieces),  together  with  the 
names  of  persons  with  whom  he  had  spoken  of  the  said 
affair;  he  had  not  only  contemplated  this  in  Tesaico, 
but  he  had  also  communicated  it,  and  spoken  of  it  during 
the  war  against  the  province  of  Tepeaca.  After  hearing 
the  confession  of  this  man,  who  was  called  Antonio  de 
Villafana,  a  native  of  Zamora,  and  as  he  reiterated  it, 
the  judge  and  myself  condemned  him  to  death,  which  was 
executed  on  his  person. 1  Although  we  found  others  in- 
culpated in  this  offence,  I  dissembled  with  them,  treating 
them  as  friends,  because  the  case  being  mine,  although 
more  properly  it  might  be  said  to  be  that  of  Your  Ma- 

1  This  man  was  a  private  soldier  who  had  come  to  Mexico  in 
Narvaez's  company;  not  Cortes  alone  but  also  Sandoval,  Alvarado, 
and  Olid  were  to  be  killed,  and  the  commandership  given  to  Francisco 
Verdugo,  brother-in-law  to  Diego  Velasquez,  who  was  said,  however, 
to  be  ignorant  of  the  conspiracy.  The  plan  was  for  several  of  the 
conspirators  to  stab  the  four  leaders  while  they  were  seated  at  table. 
Cortes  displayed  a  wise  self-restraint  in  going  no  further  in  the  affair 
than  the  execution  of  Villafana,  though  he  had  the  list  of  other  names, 
the  finding  of  some  of  which  surprised  and  pained  him  greatly.  He 
spread  the  report  that  Villafana  had  swallowed  the  paper  containing 
the  list  of  the  guilty  ones. 
vol.  n. — IO 

146  Letters  of  Cortes 

jesty,  I  was  not  willing  to  proceed  rigorously  against  them; 
this  dissimulation  has  not  produced  much  advantage, 
because  since  then  some  partisans  of  Diego  Velasquez 
have  started  many  intrigues,  and  have  secretly  created 
many  seditions  and  scandals,  in  which  it  has  been  necessary 
for  me  to  be  more  on  my  guard  against  them  than  against 
our  enemies.  But  God,  Our  Lord,  has  always  conducted 
everything  in  such  a  manner,  that,  without  executing  any 
punishment  on  them,  there  has  been,  and  exists,  peace 
and  tranquillity ;  and  if  from  henceforth  I  should  discover 
anything  else  it  shall  be  punished  as  justice  dictates. 

After  the  city  of  Temixtitan  was  captured,  and  while 
we  were  in  Cuyoacan,  Don  Fernando,  the  lord  of  Tesaico 
died,  which  much  grieved  us  all  because  he  was  a  good 
vassal  of  Your  Majesty  and  a  great  friend  of  the  Christians ; 
and  with  the  approval  of  the  chiefs  and  the  notables  of  that 
city  and  of  his  province  the  lordship  was  given  in  the  name 
of  Your  Majesty  to  a  younger  brother,  who  was  baptised 
and  took  the  name  of  Don  Carlos, !  and  as  far  as  we  know  he 
has  followed  until  now  in  the  footsteps  of  his  brother, 
and  seems  much  pleased  with  our  habits  and  conversation. 

1  made  known  to  Your  Majesty  in  the  other  account 
how  there  was  a  very  high  and  conical  mountain  near  the 
provinces  of  Tascaltecal  and  Guaxocingo,  from  which 
much  smoke  almost  constantly  issued,  ascending  straight 
like  an  arrow.2  As  the  Indians  gave  us  to  understand 
that  it  was  a  very  fearful  thing  to  ascend  it,  and  that 

» This  is  an  error;  after  Don  Fernando's  death,  the  young  prince 
Ahuaxpitzcatzin,  an  illegitimate  son  of  Nezahualpilli,  who  had  re- 
ceived the  name  of  Carlos  upon  his  baptism  as  a  Christian,  was  chosen 
King,  but  Cortes  had  refused  to  recognise  the  election,  and  had  pre- 
vailed on  the  electors  to  annul  it  in  favour  of  his  ally,  the  ambitious 
Ixtlilxochitl,  whose  Christian  name  was  also  Don  Fernando.  The 
confusion  of  the  two  Fernandos,  Kings  of  Texcoco  has  already  been 

2  The  volcano  of  Orizaba  which  was  mentioned  in  the  First 
Letter.  The  Indian  name  was  Citlatepetl,  meaning  Star  Mountain. 
Humboldt  gives  the  height  as  17,368  feet;  the  crater  is  now  extinct. 

Third  Letter  147 

those  who  went  there  perished,  I  made  certain  Spaniards 
undertake  it,  and  examine  the  summit  of  the  mountain. 
When  they  ascended,  the  smoke  came  out  with  such  noise 
that  they  neither  could  nor  dared  to  reach  its  mouth; 
and  afterwards  I  made  some  other  Spaniards  go,  who 
ascended  twice,  reaching  the  mouth  of  the  mountain 
where  the  smoke  comes  out,  and  from  one  side  of 
the  mouth  to  the  other  it  was  two  crossbow-shots, 
for  the  circumference  of  it  is  almost  three-quarters  of  a 
league,  and  the  depth  is  so  great  that  they  could  not  see 
the  bottom  of  it,  and  they  found  near  the  circumference 
some  sulphur,  deposited  there  by  the  smoke.  They  heard 
such  a  great  noise  made  by  the  smoke  that  they  made  all 
haste  to  come  down,  and  before  they  had  descended  to 
the  middle  of  the  mountain  an  infinite  number  of  stones 
came  rolling  down,  greatly  endangering  their  position; 
and  the  Indians  held  it  a  very  great  thing  to  have  dared 
to  go  where  the  Spaniards  had  gone. 

In  one  of  my  letters,  I  told  Your  Majesty  that  the 
natives  of  these  parts  were  much  more  capable  than 
those  of  the  other  islands,  appearing  to  be  as  intelli- 
gent and  as  reasonable  as  is  ordinarily  considered 
sufficient  ;  wherefor  it  appeared  wrong  to  oblige  them 
to  serve  the  Spaniards  as  those  of  the  other  islands 
do,  though  without  some  assistance,  the  conquerors  and 
settlers  of  these  parts  would  on  the  other  hand  be  unable 
to  maintain  themselves.  In  order  not  to  force  the  In- 
dians to  help  the  Spaniards,  it  seemed  to  me  that  Your 
Majesty  might  order  that  as  compensation  the  latter 
should  receive  assistance  from  the  incomes  which  here  be- 
long to  Your  Majesty  for  their  provisions  and  sustenance ; 
respecting  this  Your  Majesty  may  provide  what  seems 
profitable  to  your  service,  according  to  the  more  extensive 
relation  which  I  have  made  to  Your  Majesty.  Seeing 
the  many  and  continual  outlays  of  Your  Majesty,  and 
that  we  ought  rather  to  augment  your  rents  by  all  possible 

148  Letters  of  Cortes 

means  than  to  be  an  occasion  of  further  expenses,  and 
considering  also  the  long  time  we  have  spent  in  the  wars, 
and  the  necessities  and  debts  caused  thereby,  and  the 
delay  attendant  upon  Your  Majesty's  decision  in  this 
case,  and  above  all  the  many  importunities  of  Your 
Majesty's  officials  and  of  all  the  Spaniards  from  which 
it  was  impossible  to  excuse  myself,  I  found  myself 
almost  forced  to  place  the  chiefs  and  natives  of  these 
parts  amongst  the  Spaniards,  to  recompense  them  for 
the  services  they  have  rendered  to  Your  Majesty. 
Until  something  else  is  ordered  or  this  confirmed,  the 
said  chiefs  and  natives  serve  and  give  each  Spaniard 
to  whom  they  are  allotted  the  needful  for  his  sub- 
sistence. This  step  was  taken  with  the  approbation  of 
intelligent  persons,  who  have  had,  and  have,  great  ex- 
perience of  the  country,  for  there  was  nothing  else  possible 
not  only  for  the  maintenance  of  the  Spaniards  but  also  for 
the  preservation  and  good  treatment  of  the  Indian,  as  is 
shown  in  the  more  extensive  relation  which  the  pro- 
curators who  now  go  from  this  New  Spain  will  make  to 
Your  Majesty.  The  plantations  and  farms  of  Your 
Majesty  have  been  established  in  the  best  and  most 
convenient  provinces  and  cities. 

Most  Catholic  Lord,  may  God  Our  Lord  preserve  and 
augment  the  life  and  very  royal  person  and  powerful 
state  of  Your  Caesarean  Majesty  with  increase  of  much 
greater  Kingdoms  and  Lordships,  as  your  royal  heart 
may  desire.  From  the  City  of  Cuyoacan  of  this  New  Spain 
of  the  Ocean  Sea  on  the  15th  of  May,  1522.  Most  Power- 
ful Lord,  Your  Caesarean  Majesty's  very  humble  servant 
and  vassal  who  kisses  the  royal  hands  and  feet  of  Your 

Fernando  Cortes. 





In  the  last  desperate  days,  a  final  appeal  was  made  by  Quauhte- 
motzin  to  the  national  gods.  Choosing  one  of  the  most  valiant  soldiers, 
a  youth  called  Tlapaltecatlopuchtzin,  from  the  quarter  of  Coatlan, 
he  caused  him  to  be  vested  in  the  armour  of  his  dead  father,  the  Em- 
peror Ahuitzotl,  giving  him  also  the  helmet  and  bow  and  arrows 
which  adorned  the  statue  of  Huitzilopochtli,  the  god  of  war,  and  which 
were  regarded  as  the  most  sacred  emblems  preserved  in  the  temple. 
Thus  accoutred,  the  young  warrior  went  forth,  accompanied  by  a  Chief 
named  Cihuacoatlucotzin,  who  acted  as  his  herald,  and  who  called 
upon  all  the  people  in  the  name  of  the  god,  from  whom  they  now,  in 
their  extremity,  demanded  a  sign.  The  effort  was  vain,  and  the  god 
was  silent:  this  was  on  the  tenth  of  August.  On  the  night  of  the 
eleventh,  there  burst  over  the  city  a  terrific  storm,  in  the  midst  of 
which  the  affrighted  Mexicans  beheld  a  whirlwind  of  blood-red  fire, 
throwing  out  sparks  and  flashes  of  light,  which  seemed  to  start  from 
the  direction  of  Tepeyaca  and,  passing  over  the  small  quarter  of 
Tenochtitlan  still  left  to  them,  bury  itself  in  the  black  waters  of  the 
lake.  This  ominous  apparition,  which  was  probably  a  meteor,  was 
accepted  as  a  portent  symbolising  the  downfall  of  the  empire,  and  the 
extinction  of  their  power.  Cortes's  description  of  the  final  assault, 
the  fall  of  the  last  entrenchment,  and  the  capture  of  Quauhtemotzin, 
is  not  embellished  by  rhetoric,  but  his  terse  language  gave  Charles  V* 
a  faithful  picture  of  that  dreadful  massacre.  Neither  does  Bernal 
Diaz  enlarge  upon  details,  and  indeed  no  language  could  do  justice 
to  the  horror  of  the  fall  of  the  Aztec  city,  amidst  the  crash  of  battle, 
the  smoke  and  flame  of  burning  houses,  the  wails  of  the  vanquished, 
and  the  shouts  of  the  victors.  The  living  and  the  dead  choked  the 
canals,  the  wounded  and  dying  were  trampled  together  with  putre- 
fying corpses  in  the  sea  of  bloody  mire  into  which  the  streets  had 
been  converted;  the  stifling  August  air  reeked  with  the  mingled  smell 
of  fresh  carnage  and  decaying  bodies,  while,  amidst  these  human 
shambles,  the  emaciated  forms  of  women  and  children,  destitute  of 
any  refuge,  tottered  pitifully  under  the  merciless  weapons  of  the 
savage  allies,  who  gave  no  quarter,  but  hunted  all  alike  through  this 
hell  of  despair,  like  demons  set  upon  the  ghosts  of  the  eternally  damned. 

The  courage  of  the  defenders  never  flagged;  under  the  leadership 


152  Letters  of  Cortes 

of  their  young  sovereign,  who  kept  his  serenity  throughout  and  exer- 
cised his  best  generalship.  These  naked  barbarians,  weakened  by 
famine  and  confronted  by  inevitable  defeat,  fought  against  a  steel- 
clad  foe,  armed  with  guns  both  on  land  and  on  their  ships,  which 
mowed  down  a  very  harvest  of  death  at  every  discharge.  Never 
did  they  so  much  as  name  surrender  thus  verifying  literally  the 
words  with  which  Quauhtemotzin  answered  the  Spanish  overtures 
for  peace,  that  they  would  all  perish  to  the  last  man  in  the  city  and  he 
would  die  fighting. 

Cortes  daily  renewed  his  offers  of  honourable  terms  for  the  Em- 
peror and  his  people  if  the  city  would  surrender.  Day  after  day,  with 
infinite  patience,  he  made  appointments  which  Quauhtemotzin  never 
kept;  time  after  time,  he  wasted  hours  in  waiting  for  better  counsels 
to  prevail;  but  nothing  he  could  say  or  do  sufficed  to  allay  the  distrust 
of  Quauhtemotzin,  or  bring  the  Mexicans  to  terms.  Their  choice  was 
made;  they  had  had  enough  of  the  Spaniards,  whose  semi-divine 
character  was  an  exploded  myth,  and  whose  presence  in  the  land  was 
felt  to  be  incompatible  with  the  Aztec  sovereignty.  Cortes  protests 
throughout  the  greatest  reluctance  to  destroy  the  city,  and  declares 
repeatedly  that  the  necessity  of  doing  so  filled  him  with  inexpressible 
grief.  The  fate  known  to  be  in  store  for  every  Spaniard  taken  alive, 
and  the  sight  of  the  hideous  rites  of  sacrifice,  performed  under  the 
very  eyes  of  the  soldiers,  helpless  to  intervene,  followed  by  the  cannibal 
feasts,  in  which  the  mangled  members  of  their  comrades  furnished 
the  banquet,  were  certainly  sufficient  to  arouse  the  Spaniards  to  a 
very  frenzy  against  such  inhuman  foes,  and  yet  there  is  no  where 
found  any  hint  that  the  spirit  of  vengeance  prompted  reprisals  on  the 
prisoners  who  fell  into  their  hands.  Such  remains  of  the  Spanish 
victims  as  could  be  found  were  afterwards  collected  and  reverently 
buried :  a  chapel  dedicated  to  the  Martyrs  was  erected  over  the  spot, 
which  was  afterwards  replaced  by  the  Church  of  San  Hipolito 
(Orozco  y  Berra,  lib.  iii.,  cap.  viii.). 

Riotous  celebrations  of  the  city's  fall  naturally  followed,  the  oppor- 
tune arrival  of  some  casks  of  wine  and  pork  from  Cuba  furnishing  the 
substance  for  a  banquet,  which  was  followed  by  dancing.  Bernal 
Diaz  remarks  that  the  "plant  of  Noah  was  the  cause  of  many  fooleries 
and  worse,  "  and  that  he  refrains  from  mentioning  the  names  of  those 
who  disgraced  themselves  by  over-indulgence  and  unseemly  antics. 
Fray  Bartolome'  Olmedo  was  much  scandalised  at  this  profane  cele- 
bration, and  quickly  asserted  his  spiritual  authority  over  the  men. 
The  next  morning  a  solemn  mass  of  thanksgiving  was  said,  and  the 
good  friar  delivered  a  sermon  on  the  moral  and  religious  duties  of  the 
conquerors.  Cortes  and  others  received  the  sacraments,  and  these 
becoming  rites  ended  decorously  with  a  procession  in  which  the 
crucifix  and  an  image  of  the  Blessed  Virgin,  accompanied  by  the 
military  standards,  were  carried  to  the  sound  of  drums,  alternating 
with  chanted  litanies. 

Appendix.     Third  Letter  153 

These  vinous  and  pious  festivities  over,  the  first  great  disappoint- 
ment of  the  conquest  had  to  be  faced.  The  fabulous  treasure  was 
nowhere  to  be  found,  nor  did  tortures  succeed  in  producing  it.  The 
place  of  its  alleged  burial  in  the  lake,  indicated  by  Quauhtemotzin, 
was  searched  by  divers,  who,  after  many  efforts,  recovered  only  about 
ninety  crowns  worth  of  gold  (Bernal  Diaz,  cap.  clvii).  The  same 
authority  states  his  opinion  that,  though  it  was  rumoured  that  vast 
treasures  had  been  thrown  into  the  lake  four  days  before  the  end  of 
the  siege,  the  amount  had  doubtless  already  been  greatly  diminished 
before  it  came  into  Quauhtemotzin's  hands,  and  moreover  that,  from 
the  first,  the  value  of  it  had  seemed  double  what  it  really  was  found 
to  be  when  it  came  to  be  accurately  estimated.  The  discontent 
amongst  the  soldiery  was  great,  and  expressed  itself  in  several  ways, 
one  of  which,  more  original  than  the  others,  was  the  writing  of  pas- 
quinades on  the  white  walls  of  Cortes' s  quarter  at  Coyohuacan,  some  of 
which  were  witty,  some  insolent,  and  others  not  fit  for  print.  Cortes 
even  deigned  to  reply  to  some  of  them  in  the  same  vein,  and  on  the 
same  wall,  for  he  rather  prided  himself  on  his  ready  wit  and  skill 
at  verse-making,  but  Fray  Bartolome\  perceiving  that  the  limits 
of  propriety  were  being  overstepped,  advised  Cortes  to  stop  the 
practice,  which  he  did  by  publishing  severe  punishments  for  any 
further  writing  on  the  walls. 

Positive  data,  on  which  to  base  a  computation  of  the  numbers  en- 
gaged during  the  siege  and  the  lives  lost,  are  wanting.  Cortes  es- 
timates that  67,000  Mexicans  fell  in  the  last  three  assaults  on  the  city, 
and  that  fifty  thousand  died  of  starvation  and  diseases,  without  taking 
any  account  of  all  those  who  perished  during  the  earlier  days  of  the 
siege.  Bernal  Diaz  gives  no  figures,  but  both  he  and  the  historian 
Oviedo  state  their  conviction  that  not  more  lives  were  lost  at  the 
siege  of  Jerusalem  than  in  Mexico.  The  Jewish  historian  Josephus 
computes  the  losses  of  his  people  at  1,100,000  souls!  The  comparison 
with  these  appalling  figures  is  so  obviously  exaggerated  that  these 
two  authorities  may  safely  be  disregarded.  Writing  from  the  Mexican 
standpoint,  Ixtlilxochitl  puts  the  number  of  the  dead,  from  all  causes, 
at  240,000  persons,  which  greatly  exceeds  the  estimate  of  Cortes. 
The  same  discrepancy  appears  in  the  counting  of  the  forces  which 
laid  down  their  arms  when  Quauhtemotzin  was  captured.  Oviedo 
leads  again,  with  70,000.  Ixtlilxochitl  follows,  with  60,000,  and 
Herrera,  who  agrees  with  Torquemada,  puts  the  number  at  30,000 
fighting  men.  (Herrera,  Hist.  Gen.,  lib.  ii.,  cap.  vii.;  Torquemada, 
Monarchia  Ind.,  lib.  iv.,  cap.  ci.;  Ixtlilxochitl,  Venida  de  los  Espanoles, 
p.  49.    Oviedo  lib.  xxxiii.). 

Whatever  the  exact  number  may  have  been,  the  Mexican  Empire 
was  destroyed,  its  capital  annihilated,  and  a  vast  number  of  people 
butchered,  amidst  scenes  of  unexcelled  ferocity  and  horror.  The 
annals  of  no  great  siege  record  deeds  of  greater  bravery,  and,  had  the 
justice  of  their  cause  equalled  the  heroism  of  their  defence,  the  down-  • 

i54  Letters  of  Cortes 

fall  of  the  Aztecs  would  be  forever  sung  in  song  and  story  wherever 
brave  deeds  are  remembered. 

As  has  been  elsewhere  explained,  the  laurels  of  the  conquest  are  not 
exclusively  for  Spanish  brows.  The  superlative  generalship  and 
personal  qualities  of  Cortes,  their  superior  arms  and  knowledge  of 
military  tactics,  and  their  indomitable  courage,  were  the  Spaniards' 
contributions  to  the  successful  issue  of  the  long  campaign.  In  the 
ready  hatred  of  its  neighbours,  and  the  quick  desertion  of  its  depend- 
encies and  allies,  is  read  the  proof  of  the  inherent  weakness  of  the 
Aztec  Empire.  All  that  these  peoples  possessed — their  knowledge 
of  the  country,  their  labour,  their  treasure,  their  fighting  men,  and 
their  thirst  for  vengeance — were  placed  at  the  disposition  of  Cortes, 
and  thus  the  conquest  was  accomplished.  Even  admitting  the  most 
and  the  worst  that  has  been  said  of  the  Spaniards'  methods  in  carrying 
on  this  war  of  invasion,  the  result  commands  our  applause  in  the  name 
of  humanity. 

The  Mexican  civilisation,  even  granting  that  it  had  reached  the 
high  perfection  claimed  for  it  by  some  writers,  was  chaotic,  stationary, 
and  barren ;  it  rested  upon  despotic  power,  and  its  many  crimes  were 
expiated  in  the  blood  of  their  perpetrators. 

Whatever  culture  and  refinement  of  living  there  were,  centred  in 
the  capital  and  its  immediate  neighbourhood,  the  outlying  provinces 
being  peopled  by  aboriginal,  not  to  say  savage  tribes,  which  justified 
their  existence  by  the  tribute  of  men  and  money  they  paid,  without 
being  sharers  in  the  learning  and  luxury  their  labours  sustained. 
" Humanum  paucis  vivit  genus." 

The  arrival  of  the  Spaniards  in  the  midst  of  this  chaos  of  tyranny 
and  disloyalty  shattered  the  loosely  joined  organisation,  whose  in- 
ferior character  foredoomed  it  to  destruction  when  brought  into 
contact  with  a  higher  and  more  progressive  type  of  civilisation. 

The  substitution  of  the  Christian  religion  for  the  horrors  of  human 
sacrifices  and  the  revolting  cannibal  feasts  is,  of  itself,  a  sufficient 
justification  for  the  overthrow  of  the  Aztec  Empire,  whose  bloody 
and  degrading  rites  were  of  the  very  essence  of  its  religious  system. 
Upon  the  ruins  of  the  old  order,  a  new  civilisation  has  been  founded, 
from  which  a  nation  still  in  the  process  of  formation  has  developed,  in 
which  Spanish  and  Indian  blood  are  mingled,  and  which  is  advancing 
on  the  road  of  human  progress  to  what  destiny  we  know  not,  but  in 
which  the  humblest  Indian  has  his  place  living  in  a  securer  present, 
and  moving  towards  a  higher  future,  than  any  his  own  race  could  have 
shaped  for  him.  Many  of  the  best  men  in  modern  Mexico  trace  with 
pride  their  descent  from  Aztec  kings  and  nobles.  A  uniform  and 
rich  language  with  its  system  of  phonetic  writing,  the  introduction 
of  horses  and  beasts  of  burden,  the  use  of  iron  and  leather,  improved 
systems  of  [mining  and  agriculture  which  have  brought  under  civilisa- 
tion vast  tracts  of  land,  and  increased  the  variety  and  quality  of  crops 
— these  and  countless  other  resources,  unknown  and  unknowable  to 

Appendix.      Third  Letter  155 

the  Mexicans,  have  revolutionised  the  conditions  of  their  existence 
beyond  anything  their  ancestors  could  have  dreamed. 

Even  at  the  price  it  cost,  the  conquest  must  be  approved,  though  it 
obliterated  an  interesting  and  wonderful  civilisation  so  entirely  that 
the  few  relics  left  serve  but  to  stimulate  enquiries  to  which  few 
answers  are  forthcoming. 

With  the  destruction  of  the  archives  of  Texcoco,  and  of  the  Golden 
Key  to  the  hieroglyphs,  the  sponge  was  passed  over  the  tablets  of 
Aztec  history:  unwise  laws  destroyed  native  arts  and  crafts,  whose 
products  had  astonished  the  foremost  artisans  of  Europe,  while  the 
secrets  of  the  lapidaries,  of  the  gold-  and  silver-smiths,  of  the  deft 
workers  in  feathers,  and  of  other  unique  crafts,  perished  for  ever 
leaving  the  civilisation  of  Anahuac  a  mystery  for  all  time. 




Very  High,  very  Powerful,  and  most  Excellent  Prince 
very  Catholic  and  Invincible  Emperor,  King  and  Lord. 

In  the  account  which  I  sent  to  Your  Majesty  by  Juan 
de  Ribera,  concerning  what  had  happened  to  me  in  these 
parts  after  the  second  letter  I  despatched  to  Your  High- 
ness, I  said  that,  in  order  to  pacify  and  reduce  to  the 
royal  service  of  Your  Majesty  the  Provinces  of  Guatusco, 
Tuxtepeque,  Quatasca,  and  others  in  the  neighbourhood, 
which  are  on  the  South  Sea  and  which  since  the  revolt 
were  in  rebellion,  I  had  sent  the  alguacil  mayor  thither 
with  some  people;  I  told  what  had  happened  to  him  on 
the  road;  and  also  that  I  had  ordered  him  to  make  a 
settlement  in  those  provinces  and  to  name  the  town 
Medellin.  It  now  remains  that  Your  Highness  should 
know  how  the  said  town  was  founded  and  all  that  country 
and  its  provinces  subdued  and  pacified. 

I  sent  him  reinforcements,  and  ordered  him  to  go  up 
the  coast  to  the  province  of  Guazacualco,  which  is  fifty 
leagues  from  where  that  town  was  founded  and  one  hun- 
dred and  twenty  from  this  city;  for,  when  I  was  in  this 
city  while  Montezuma  was  still  alive,  striving  to  discover 
all  the  secrets  of  these  parts  in  order  to  give  a  full  ac- 
count of  them  to  Your  Majesty,  I  had  sent  thither  Diego 
de  Ordaz, *  who  resides  at  the  Court  of  Your  Majesty; 

1  Diego  de  Ordaz  was  a  native  of  Tierra  de  Campo,  and  first  came 
to  Mexico  when  he  was  forty  years  old,  with  Juan  de  Grijalba;  he  was 
a  Captain  of  infantry  under  Cortes,  and  conducted  the  first  ascent 
of  Popocatepetl,  for  which  exploit  he  was  afterwards  granted  a  volcano 
in  his  armorial  bearings.  He  received  the  Knighthood  of  Santiago, 
and  died  as  Governor  of  Maranon. 


160  Letters  of  Cortes 

and  the  lords  and  natives  of  the  said  province  had  re- 
ceived him  cordially,  and  had  offered  themselves  as 
vassals  and  subjects  of  Your  Highness.  I  had  received 
information  that  there  was  a  very  good  harbour  for 
ships  at  the  mouth  of  a  large  river  which  flows  through 
that  province ;  for  the  said  Ordaz  and  those  with  him  had 
explored  it  and  had  found  the  country  very  well  adapted 
for  settling.  The  absence  of  harbours  on  this  coast 
made  me  anxious  to  find  a  good  one  where  I  might  found 
a  town. 

I  ordered  the  alguacil  mayor  that,  before  entering  the 
province,  he  should  send  certain  messengers  whom  I  gave 
him,  natives  of  this  city,  to  tell  the  inhabitants  that  he 
went  there  by  my  orders  to  discover  if  they  were  still  loyal 
to  Your  Majesty's  service  and  faithful  to  our  amity,  as 
they  had  formerly  professed  to  be;  and  to  tell  them  also 
that,  on  account  of  the  wars  I  had  carried  on  with  the 
sovereign  of  this  city  and  its  dependencies,  I  had  sent  no 
one  to  visit  them  for  a  long  time,  but  that  I  had  always 
considered  them  as  my  friends  and  vassals  of  Your  High- 
ness and  that,  as  such,  they  might  count  upon  my  friend- 
ship if  they  had  need  of  it ;  and  that  hence  I  sent  my  people 
thither  to  pacify  and  to  assist  them  in  anything  they 
might  require,  and  to  settle  that  province.  The  alguacil 
mayor  departed  with  his  people,  and  did  as  I  commanded 
him,  but  did  not  find  the  natives  well  disposed  as  they 
had  formerly  professed,  but  rather  they  displayed  a  war- 
like disposition  to  prevent  the  alguacil  mayor  and 
his  people  from  entering  their  country.  He  managed  so 
well  that,  surprising  a  town  one  night,  he  seized  a  woman 
whom  all  in  those  parts  obeyed,  and  everything  quieted 
because  she  sent  to  call  the  chiefs  and  ordered  them  to 
observe  whatever  was  commanded  them  in  Your  Majesty's 
name  as  she  herself  intended  to  do.  They  arrived  at  the 
river  four  leagues  from  its  mouth  where  they  founded  a 
town  on  a  good  site — as  no  good  place  was  found  nearer 

Fourth  Letter  161 

the  sea,  to  which  the  name  of  Espiritu  Santo  was  given,  and 
the  alguacil  mayor  stopped  there  for  some  days  until  many 

0  f  the  neighbouring  provinces  were  pacified  and  brought  to 
the  service  of  Your  Catholic  Majesty.  Some  of  these  were : 
Tabasco,  which  is  on  the  River  Victoria,  or  Grijalba  as 
it  is  commonly  called,  and  that  of  Chimaclan,  and  Que- 
chula,  and  Quizaltepeque,  and  others  which  being  in- 
significant I  do  not  name.  And  we  apportioned  the 
natives  to  the  householders  of  the  said  town  to  serve 
them;  and  they  actually  do  serve  them,  although  some, 

1  mean  those  of  Chimaclan,  Tabasco,  and  Quizaltepeque, 
have  again  rebelled.  About  a  month  since,  I  sent  a 
captain  with  some  people  from  this  city  to  subdue  them 
to  the  service  of  Your  Majesty,  and  to  punish  their 
rebellion;  I  have  had  no  news  of  them  but  I  believe,  Our 
Lord  willing,  they  will  succeed,  as  they  took  a  good  supply 
of  artillery,  ammunition,  crossbowmen,  and  horsemen. 

In  the  account,  most  Catholic  Sire,  which  the  said 
Juan  de  Ribera  took  with  him,  I  also  made  it  known 
to  Your  Caesarian  and  Catholic  Majesty  that  the  ruler 
of  the  great  province  near  Mechuacan,  whose  name  is 
Casulci,1  had  offered  himself  and  his  people  as  subjects 
and  vassals  of  Your  Caesarian  Majesty  and  had  sent 
certain  presents  by  his  messengers,  which  presents  I  sent 
with  the  Procurators  who  went  from  this  New  Spain  to 
Your  Highness.  As  the  province  and  dominion  of  the 
said  Lord  Casulci,  according  to  the  information  which 
certain  Spaniards  whom  I  sent  there  gave  me,  was  large, 
and,  from  all  indications,  very  rich,  and  since  it  is  so  near 
to  this  great  city,  after  I  had  received  reinforcements, 
I  sent  thither  a  captain  with  seventy  cavalry  and  two 
hundred  foot  soldiers,  well  armed  and  provided  with 
artillery,  to  explore  that  province  and  its  secrets,  with 

1  Catzolcin,  King  of  Michoacan  and  ruler  of  Xalisco;  he  was  after- 
wards burned  alive  with  many  of  his  nobles  by  Nufio  de  Guzman,  who 
first  robbed  him  of  ten  thousand  marks  of  silver,  a  quantity  of  gold, 
and  six  thousand  men  for  his  army. 

1 62  Letters  of  Cortes 

orders,  if  they  found  it  as  it  was  described,  to  settle  in 
the  principal  city — Huicicila.  They  were  well  received 
and  lodged  by  the  chiefs  and  natives,  who,  besides  pro- 
viding them  with  food,  gave  them  as  much  as  three 
thousand  marks  of  silver,  so  mixed  with  copper  that  one- 
half  may  have  been  silver;  and  about  five  thousand 
dollars  of  gold,  likewise  mixed  with  silver  in  unknown 
proportion  and  some  cotton  stuffs,  and  other  things; 
after  having  separated  Your  Majesty's  fifth,  these  were 
distributed  amongst  the  Spaniards  of  the  expedition. 
As  they  were  not  much  satisfied  with  the  prospects  of 
settling  in  the  country,  they  objected,  and  even  showed 
such  disaffection  that  some  were  punished;  on  which 
account  I  ordered  those  who  wished  to  do  so  to  go  back, 
and  the  others  I  ordered  to  go  on  with  a  captain  to  the 
South  Sea,  where  I  have  established  a  town  called  Za- 
catula,1  distant  one  hundred  leagues  from  Huicicila, 
and  where  I  have  four  ships  in  the  dockyard  for  the  ex- 
ploration of  that  Sea  as  far  as  God  our  Lord  will  permit 
me.  While  marching  to  Zacatula,  the  said  captain  and 
his  people  heard  of  a  province,  called  Coliman,  which 
lies  off  the  road  about  fifty  leagues  westward ;  so,  without 
my  permission,  he  went  thither  with  his  people  and  many 
allies  from  the  Province  of  Mechuacan.  He  marched 
some  distance  into  it,  coming  into  conflict  with  the  na- 
tives, and,  although  he  had  forty  horsemen  and  more 
than  one  hundred  foot  soldiers,  musketeers,  and  cross- 
bowmen,  they  routed  him,  and  drove  him  from  the  coun- 
try, killing  three  Spaniards  and  many  of  our  Indian  allies ; 
he  then  took  refuge  in  Zacatula.  As  soon  as  I  heard 
of  this  incident,  I  summoned  the  captain  and  punished 
him  for  his  disobedience. 

In  the  former  account  which  I  sent  to  Your  Caesarian 

»  Zacatula  was  the  first  port  established  on  the  Pacific  coast. 
Cortes  made  a  dock-yard  there.  It  still  bears  the  same  name  and  is 
situated  just  north  of  Acapulco. 

Fourth  Letter  163 

Majesty,  I  related  how  I  had  sent  Pedro  de  Alvarado 
to  the  province  of  Tututepeque !  on  the  South  Sea,  and  I 
could  say  no  more  than  that  he  arrived  there  and  had  taken 
the  chief  and  his  son  prisoners ;  and  that  they  had  given 
him  some  gold  and  samples  from  the  gold  mines,  and 
of  pearls,  because,  up  to  that  time,  I  had  nothing  further 
to  report.  Your  Highness  will  recollect  that,  in  reply 
to  the  news  which  he  sent  me,  I  immediately  ordered 
him  to  seek  an  available  site  in  that  province  for  a  settle- 
ment, and  that  I  also  directed  householders  of  the  town 
of  Segura  de  la  Frontera  to  move  there,  as  there  was  no 
further  need  for  that  town  so  near  to  this  city.  Thus 
it  was  done,  and  the  town  was  called  Segura  la  Frontera 
as  before:  the  natives  of  Quaxaca,  Coaclan,  Coasclahuaca, 
Tachquiaco,  and  others  in  that  neighbourhood,  were 
distributed  amongst  the  householders  for  their  service 
and  willingly  made  themselves  useful;  and  Pedro  de 
Alvarado  stopped  there  as  chief  justice  and  captain  in 
my  place.  While  I  was  engaged  in  conquering  the  pro- 
vince of  Panuco,  as  I  shall  hereafter  state  to  Your  Majesty, 
the  alcaldes  and  municipal  officers  of  the  said  town  be- 
sought Pedro  de  Alvarado  to  go,  with  power  of  attorney, 
to  negotiate  certain  matters  with  me,  which  they  de- 
sired of  him,  to  which  he  agreed ;  and,  when  he  was  gone, 
the  alcaldes  and  municipal  officers  formed  a  conspiracy, 
convoking  the  community  and  appointing  other  alcaldes 
against  the  will  of  him  whom  the  said  Pedro  de  Alvarado 
had  left  there  as  captain,  and  they  removed  the  said 
town  to  the  province  of  Guaxaca,  thus  causing  much 
disturbance  and  confusion  in  those  parts.  When  I 
learned  of  this  from  the  rightful  captain,  I  sent  Diego 
de  Ocampo,2   alcalde  mayor,  to  obtain  information  of 

1  Not  to  be  confounded  with  the  other  town  of   the    same   name 
in  the  present  state  of  Puebla. 

2  Diego  de  Ocampo  was  from  Caceres;  he  was  the  first  navigator 
who  reached  Peru,  having  sailed  from  Tehuantepec  in  his  own  ship. 

1 64  Letters  of  Cortes 

what  had  happened,  and  to  punish  the  culprits.  They, 
hearing  this,  fled,  and  wandered  about  for  some  days 
until  I  captured  them,  so  that  the  said  alcalde  mayor 
secured  only  one  of  the  rebels,  whom  he  sentenced  to 
death;  and  this  man  appealed  to  me.  I  delivered  those 
whom  I  had  captured  to  the  said  alcalde  mayor,  who 
proceeded  against  them  likewise,  and  sentenced  them 
as  he  did  the  other,  and  they  also  appealed;  the  cases 
are  now  finished,  and  ready  to  be  sentenced  in  the  second 
instance  before  me.  I  have  -examined  them,  and,  while 
I  think  their  error  was  very  grave,  still,  considering  the 
long  time  they  have  been  in  prison,  I  have  determined 
to  commute  the  death  penalty  to  that  of  civil  death 
or  banishment,  forbidding  them  to  return  to  these 
parts  without  Your  Majesty's  permission  under  pain  of 
incurring  their  first  sentence. 

During  this  time,  the  chief  of  the  said  province  of 
Tututepeque  died,  and  it  and  other  neighbouring  pro- 
vinces rebelled,  so  I  sent  Pedro  de  Alvarado,  and  with 
him  the  son  of  the  said  chief  whom  I  had  kept  here  in 
my  power.  Although  he  had  some  encounters  in  which 
some  Spaniards  were  killed,  they  resumed  their  alle- 
giance to  Your  Majesty,  and  are  now  pacified  and  serve 
the  Spaniards  to  whom  they  are  surely  and  pacifically 
apportioned,  although  the  town  has  not  been  resettled 
for  want  of  people  and  because  at  present  there  is  no 
need  for  it,  as,  since  their  chastisement,  they  are  so 
subdued  that  they  come  even  to  this  city  when  they  are 

Immediately  after  this  city  of  Temixtitan  and  its  de- 
pendencies were  recovered  there  were  reduced  to  the 
Imperial  Crown  of  Your  Caesarian  Majesty  two  provinces 
called  Tututepeque *   and  Mezclitan2    which    are    forty 

He  was  one  of  those  left  in  charge  of  the  Government  by  Cortes  when 
he  went  to  Spain. 

1  Tututepec  in  the  State  of  Puebla. 

2  Metztithlan. 

Fourth  Letter  165 

leagues  towards  the  north  and  border  on  the  province 
of  Panuco.  The  country  is  an  extremely  strong  one, 
and  the  people  are  well  versed  in  the  exercise  of  arms  on 
account  of  the  adversaries  who  surround  them  on  all 
sides.  They,  seeing  what  had  been  done  to  these  people 
of  Panuco,  and  how  nothing  hindered  Your  Majesty's 
progress  sent  their  messengers  to  me  and  offered  them- 
selves as  your  subjects  and  vassals.  I  received  them  in 
the  royal  name  of  Your  Majesty,  and  as  such  they  always 
considered  themselves  until  the  coming  of  Cristobal  de 
Tapia,  who  caused  such  disturbances  and  scandals 
amongst  these  other  peoples  that  they,  too,  not  only  re- 
nounced their  obedience,  but  even  did  much  harm  to 
the  neighbourhood  where  there  are  vassals  of  Your 
Catholic  Majesty,  burning  many  towns  and  killing  many 
people.  I  had  no  people  to  spare  at  that  moment,  as 
they  were  scattered  in  so  many  other  places,  but,  seeing 
that  to  leave  this  unnoticed  was  very  mischievous,  and 
fearing  that  the  people  who  bordered  on  those  provinces 
might  join  them  for  fear  of  reprisals  if  they  did  not,  and 
also  because  I  was  not  myself  entirely  satisfied  as  to  their 
loyalty,  I  sent  a  captain  with  thirty  horsemen,  one  hun- 
dred foot  soldiers,  crossbowmen,  musketeers,  and  many 
Indian  allies.  Several  encounters  took  place  in  which 
they  killed  some  of  our  friendlies  and  two  Spaniards; 
but  our  Lord  was  pleased  that  they  should  proffer  peace 
of  their  own  free  will;  the  chiefs  were  brought  to  me,  and, 
as  they  had  come  without  being  captured,  I  pardoned 
them.  Afterwards,  when  I  went  to  the  province  of 
Panuco,  the  natives  spread  the  report  that  I  was  gone  to 
Castile,  which  news  caused  much  apprehension;  and  one 
of  the  two  provinces — Tututepeque — again  rebelled,  and 
its  chief  descended  with  many  people  and  burned  more 
than  twenty  towns  of  our  friendlies,  and  killed  and  cap- 
tured numbers  of  them.  Finding  myself  on  the  march 
from  the  province  of  Panuco,  I  returned  and  subdued 

1 66  Letters  of  Cortes 

them,  and,  although  at  the  outset  they  killed  some  of 
our  friendlies  who  had  straggled  behind,  and  some  ten 
or  twelve  horses  foundered  on  account  of  the  roughness 
of  the  mountain  roads,  all  the  province  was  conquered, 
and  the  lord  and  his  brother,  a  youth,  and  another,  his 
captain-general,  who  guarded  one  of  the  frontiers,  were 
captured.  The  lord  and  his  captain-general  were  im- 
mediately hanged,  and  all  who  were  captured  in  the  war, 
perhaps  two  hundred  persons,  were  made  slaves  and  were 
branded  and  sold  by  auction.  Your  Majesty's  fifth  hav- 
ing been  paid,  the  rest  of  the  proceeds  were  distributed 
amongst  those  who  took  part  in  the  war,  although  there 
was  not  sufficient  to  pay  for  one-third  of  the  horses 
which  perished,  as,  on  account  of  the  poverty  of  the 
country,  no  other  spoil  had  been  obtained.  The  rest  of 
the  people  in  the  said  province  surrendered  peaceably 
and  have  kept  their  word.  That  young  brother  of  the 
dead  chief  is  now  lord,  although  for  the  present  he  is  of 
no  service  or  profit  as  the  country  is  so  poor,  still  he 
keeps  it  in  such  security  that  those  who  do  serve  us  will 
not  be  disturbed,  and  moreover,  I  have  placed  amongst 
them  some  of  the  natives  of  this  country  for  greater 

At  this  season,  Most  Invincible  Caesar,  there  arrived  at 
the  port  and  town  of  Espiritu  Santo,  which  I  mentioned 
Mission  of  in  the  chapter  before  the  last,  a  very  small  and 
Juan  Bono  miserable  brigantine  coming  from  Cuba,  on 
board  which  was  one  Juan  Bono  de  Quejo  who  had  come  to 
this  country  in  the  armada  of  Panfilo  de  Narvaez  as  master 
of  one  of  the  ships ;  and,  as  it  appeared  from  the  despatches 
he  brought,  he  came  by  order  of  Don  Juan  de  Fonseca, 
Bishop  of  Burgos,1  in  the  belief  that  Cristobal  de  Tapia 

1  Juan  de  Fonseca,  Bishop  of  Burgos  and  titular  [Archbishop  of 
Rosano,  was  of  noble  family,  and  when  Dean  of  Seville  had  been  named 
by  King  Ferdinand  to  the  presidency  of  the  newly  constituted  Royal 
Council  for  the  Indies,  which  had  charge  of  the  affairs  of  the  recently 
discovered  realms  in  the  New  World.     This  appointment  was  sin- 

Fourth  Letter  167 

whom  he  had  designated  for  Governor  of  this  country  was 
here.  Lest  he  should  meet  with  an  unfavourable  reception , 
as  for  notorious  reasons  he  was  led  to  fear,  he  was  sent  by 
way  of  the  island  of  Cuba  in  order  to  communicate  with 
Diego  de  Velasquez;  this  he  did  and  was  given  by  the 
latter  the  brigantine  in  which  he  came.  The  said  Juan 
Bono  brought  about  one  hundred  letters  of  the  same 
tenor,  signed  by  the  said  Bishop,  and  I  even  believe 
they  were  in  blank  so  that  he  could  deliver  them  to  such 
persons  as  seemed  expedient  here,  telling  them  that  they 
would  render  great  service  to  Your  Cassarian  Majesty 
by  receiving  the  said  Tapia,  and  promising  them  in- 
creased and  signal  favours  for  so  doing;  saying  also  that 
they  should  know  Your  Excellency  was  displeased  at 
their  being  under  my  command,  besides  many  other 
things  tending  to  excite  them  to  sedition  and  disquiet. 
To  me,  he  wrote  another  letter,  telling  me  the  same,  and 
saying  if  I  would  obey  the  said  Tapia  he  would  obtain 
signal  favours  from  Your  Majesty  for  me,  and  if  not,  I 
might  be  sure  he  would  always  be  my  mortal  enemy. 
The  arrival  of  this  Juan  Bono  and  the  letters  he  brought 
occasioned  such  commotion  among  my  company  that 
I  declare  to  Your  Majesty  I  had  to  reassure  them,  ex- 
plaining to  them  why  the  Bishop  had  written  thus  and 

gularly  unfortunate  as  he  possessed  no  aptitude  for  the  post,  and,  being 
of  choleric  temper,  touchy,  vindictive,  and  given  to  favouritism,  he 
seems  never  to  have  grasped  the  possibilities  of  his  office,  or  to  have 
comprehended  the  meaning  of  the  events,  whose  course  he  was  called 
upon  to  shape.  Instead  of  aiding  and  encouraging  the  daring  men 
who  were  eager  to  stake  everything,  including  their  lives,  in  great 
enterprises,  he  almost  invariably  vexed  and  persecuted  them,  per- 
verting his  great  power  to  thwart  the  very  undertakings  it  was  his 
business  to  favour.  He  was  bitterly  hostile  to  Columbus,  continuing 
his  opposition  to  his  son  Diego.  The  story  of  his  dealings  with  Cortes 
sufficiently  appears  from  the  accounts  in  these  Letters.  The  Em- 
peror's eyes  were  finally  opened  to  his  incurable  defects  of  character, 
and  his  influence  received  its  death-blow  from  the  transactions  of  his 
agents  with  Cortes.  He  died  March  14,  1524,  having  done  his  worst 
during  thirty  years  with  the  interests  confided  to  his  direction. 

1 68  Letters  of  Cortes 

that  they  should  not  fear  his  threats  as  the  greatest 
service  to  Your  Majesty,  and  for  which  they  would  receive 
greater  favours,  was  to  resent  the  meddling  of  the  Bishop 
and  of  any  of  his  creatures  in  those  parts;  because  his 
intention  was  to  conceal  the  truth  from  Your  Majesty, 
obtaining  favours  the  while  without  your  knowing  what 
was  given  in  exchange.  I  had  much  trouble  to  pacify 
them,  especially  as  I  was  informed — although  I  dis- 
sembled at  the  time — that  some  murmured  amongst 
themselves,  saying  that  since  thus  far  they  had  received 
nothing  but  threats  in  payment  for  their  services  they 
might  better  form  themselves  into  comunidades1  as  had 
been  done  in  Castile  until  Your  Majesty  should  be  in- 
formed of  the  truth;  for  the  Bishop  had  so  many  fingers 
in  this  business  and  thus  prevented  their  accounts  from 
reaching  Your  Highness,  as  he  held  the  office  of  the  Casa 
de  la  Contratacion 2  at  Seville  in  his  hands,  where  their 
messengers  were  ill-treated,  and  their  letters  and  monies 
were  seized,  and  reinforcements,  supplies,  arms,  and 
provisions  were  withheld  from  them.  When  I  spoke 
to  them  as  I  have  explained  above,  and  told  them  that 
Your  Majesty  was  not  in  any  wise  cognisant  of  this,  and 
they  might  rest  assured  that,  when  Your  Highness  came 

1  Referring  to  the  uprising  of  the  Town  Corporations  in  Spain, 
provoked  by  a  grant  of  subsidies  which  the  Cortes  held  in  Galicia  made 
to  the  king,  without  having  first  obtained  from  him  the  settlement 
of  long  standing  grievances  which  awaited  his  adjustment.  The  Cor- 
porations were  powerful  bodies,  governed  by  independent  and  dem- 
ocratic principles,  possessing  charters  which  granted  them  valuable 
privileges  and  immunities  which  they  jealously  defended  against  the 
Crown,  the  Church,  and  the  Nobles.  They  sent  representatives  to 
the  Cortes  and  could  check  the  royal  power  by  refusing  funds. 
When,  therefore,  the  Cortes  subserviently  voted  the  supplies  asked 
by  Charles  V.,  who  was  in  haste  to  leave  for  Germany  where  he 
had  been  elected  Emperor,  the  cities  revolted.  Toledo,  setting  the 
example,  under  the  leadership  of  Juan  de  Padilla  was  followed  by 
Burgos,  Segovia  Zamora,  and  others,  including  Valladolid,  where  the 
cardinal-regent  was  then  living. 

2  Casa  de  Contratacion,  or  India  house  as  Prescott  aptly  translates 
the  name,  was  created  for  the  administration  of  affairs  in  America. 

Fourth  Letter  169 

to  know,  their  services  would  be  recompensed  and  they 
would  receive  such  favours  as  loyal  vassals  who  had 
served  their  King  and  Lord  merited,  they  became  re- 
assured, and  they  were  and  are  still  content  with  the 
favour  which  Your  Highness  deemed  well  to  bestow 
upon  me  with  Your  Royal  provisions,  and  they  serve 
very  willingly  as  the  fruits  of  their  service  give  testimony. 
They  deserve,  therefore,  that  Your  Majesty  should  con- 
cede them  great  favours,  which  I  on  my  part  supplicate 
most  humbly  from  Your  Highness  because  I  deem  any- 
thing conceded  to  them  as  no  less  a  favour  than  if  it 
had  been  granted  to  me,  for  without  them  I  could  not 
have  served  Your  Highness  as  I  have;  and  especially 
do  I  most  humbly  supplicate  Your  Highness  to  order 
some  recognition  of  their  services  to  be  sent  them  in 
writing,  promising  them  favours;  because  besides  paying 
a  debt  which  Your  Majesty  owes  them,  they  will  be 
animated  henceforth  with  greater  good  will  to  continue. 
By  a  royal  cedula  which  Your  Caesarian  Majesty  ordered 
to  be  given  at  the  petition  of  Juan  de  Ribera,  respecting 
the  affair  of  the  adelantado,1  Francisco  de  Garay,  it 
seems  that  Your  Highness  was  informed  that  I  was  about 
to  go  very  soon  to  the  river  Panuco  to  pacify  that  region, 
because  it  was  stated  that  there  was  a  good  harbour 
there,  and  because  the  natives  had  killed  many  Spaniards, 
not  only  of  those  under  Francisco  de  Garay's  captain, 
but  also  those  of  another  ship  which  sometime  after- 
wards arrived  on  that  coast  of  whom  none  escaped  alive. 
Some  of  the  natives  of  those  parts  had  come  to  me,  ex- 

1  The  title  given  to  the  Governor  of  a  province,  and  which,  in  the 
case  of  the  Spanish  discoverers,  meant  the  Commander  of  an  exploring 
expedition  who  was  empowered  to  colonise  and  establish  a  Government 
of  which  he  should  be  the  head,  in  any  countries  he  might  discover. 
Las  Casas  sarcastically  explained  the  etymology  of  the  title  saying 
"  porque  se  adelantaron  en  hacer  males  y  danos  tan  gravissimos  a  gentes 
pacificos  "  (because  they  took  the  lead  in  perpetrating  such  great  evils 
and  injuries  on  peaceful  people). 

170  Letters  of  Cortes 

cusing  themselves  for  those  murders,  saying  that  they 
had  acted  thus  because  they  knew  those  men  were  not 
under  my  command,  and  because  they  had  been  ill- 
treated  by  them;  but  that,  if  I  wished  to  send  my  people 
there,  they  would  esteem  it  a  great  favour  and  would 
serve  them  the  best  they  could,  and  would  thank  me 
very  much,  because  they  feared  that  the  others  with 
whom  they  had  fought  might  return  against  them  and 
take  vengeance,  and  also  because  they  had  hostile  neigh- 
bours who  molested  them,  whereas  if  I  sent  Spaniards 
there  they  would  be  protected.  I  was  short  of  people 
when  they  came  so  I  was  unable  to  comply,  but  I 
promised  I  would  do  so  as  soon  as  possible;  and  thus 
satisfied  them  so  that  ten  or  twelve  towns  in  that  neigh- 
bourhood offered  themselves  as  vassals  of  Your  Majesty. 
A  few  days  afterwards,  they  again  returned,  and  be- 
sought me  most  earnestly  to  send  some  Spaniards  to 
settle  there,  as  I  had  done  in  other  places,  because  they 
were  much  molested  by  their  foes  and  others  of  their 
own  nation  who  lived  along  the  seacoast,  because  they 
were  our  friends.  To  comply  with  this,  and  for  the 
purpose  of/ making  a  settlement  in  their  country,  and 
also  because  I  had  then  received  reinforcements,  I  sent 
a  captain  with  certain  companions  to  the  said  river,  but 
just  as  they  were  leaving  I  learned  by  a  ship  that  had 
arrived  from  Cuba  how  the  Admiral  Don  Diego  Colon1 
and  the  adelantados,  Diego  Velasquez  and  Francisco 
de  Garay,  had  agreed  amongst  themselves  to  go  there 
with  the  hostile  intention  of  doing  me  all  the  mischief 
they  could.  To  forestall  the  effects  of  their  evil  inten- 
tions, and  to  prevent  a  disturbance  and  trouble  arising 
from  their  going  similar  to  what  had  occurred  on  the 
arrival  of  Narvaez,  I  determined  to  go  myself,  leaving 

1  Diego  Columbus  had  obtained  a  royal  decree  from  the  Car- 
dinal-Regent (afterwards  Adrian  VI.),  during  the  Emperor's  absence 
in  Germany,  which  was  dated  from  Burgos  in  1521,  authorising  him 
to  colonise  the  Panuco  country. 

Fourth  Letter  171 

this  city  as  well  defended  as  I  could,  so  that  if  any  of 
them  did  come  there  they  would  meet  me  rather  than 
another;  for  I  could  better  prevent  the  mischief. 

I  set  out  therefore  with  one  hundred  and  twenty 
horsemen,  three  hundred  foot  soldiers,  some  artillery,  and 
about  forty  thousand  Indian  warriors  of  this  city  Campaign 
and  its  neighbourhood.  At  the  frontier  of  their  in  Panuco 
country  quite  twenty-five  leagues  from  the  port,  and  in  the 
neighbourhood  of  a  large  town  called  Ayntuscotaclan, l 
we  encountered  and  fought  with  many  warriors,  but  owing 
to  our  numerous  Indian  allies,  and  also  to  the  fact  that 
the  ground  was  level  and  suitable  for  the  cavalry,  the 
battle  did  not  last  long;  although  they  wounded  some 
horses  and  Spaniards  and  some  of  our  friendlies  perished, 
they  got  the  worst  share,  for  many  of  them  were  killed. 
I  remained  in  that  town  two  or  three  days  for  the  purpose 
of  caring  for  the  wounded  and  also  because  those  who 
had  formerly  offered  themselves  as  vassals  to  Your 
Highness  came  to  see  me  there.  From  there  they  ac- 
companied me  to  the  port  and  ever  afterwards  rendered 
us  the  greatest  possible  service.  I  continued  my  march 
until  I  reached  the  port,  and  nowhere  did  I  have  any 
further  hostile  encounters,  but  rather,  all  along  the  road, 
the  people  came  and  asked  pardon  for  their  error,  and 
offered  themselves  for  the  royal  service  of  Your  Highness. 
When  I  reached  the  port  and  river,  I  lodged  in  a  town, 
called  Chila,2  five  leagues  from  the  sea,  which  was  aban- 
doned and  burned  because  it  was  there  that  Francisco 
de  Garay's  captain  and  his  people  were  routed.  From 
there  I  sent  messengers  to  the  other  side  of  the  river  and 
along  those  lakes  which  are  all  peopled  with  great  towns, 
telling  them  to  have  no  fears  for  what  had  happened  in 
the  past  for  I  was  well  aware  they  had  revolted  on  account 
of  the  ill-treatment  they  had  received  from  our  people 

1  The  present  Coscatlan  at  the  mouth  of  the  Huasteca  River. 

2  The  small  lake  of  Chila  near  the  mouth  of  the  river  Panuco. 

172  Letters  of  Cortes 

and  that  they  deserved  no  blame  for  it.  But  they  never 
would  come  to  me,  but  ill-treated  the  messengers,  and 
even  killed  some  of  them.  They  also  stationed  them- 
selves on  the  other  side  of  the  river,  at  the  spring  where 
we  got  our  fresh  water,  and  attacked  those  who  went 
to  fetch  it.  This  continued  for  more  than  fifteen  days 
while  I  waited  always  hoping  to  win  them  by  kindness, 
and  that,  on  seeing  how  well  treated  those  were  who 
had  submitted,  they  would  do  likewise;  but  they  had 
such  confidence  in  the  strength  of  their  position  among 
these  lakes  that  they  never  would  yield.  And  seeing 
that  gentle  means  availed  nothing  with  them,  I  sought 
a  means  to  bring  matters  to  a  finish.  I  already  had 
some  canoes  and  managed  to  procure  some  others,  so  that 
one  night  I  transported  my  men  and  horses  across  the 
lake  without  the  enemy  suspecting  anything,  and  by 
morning  I  had  assembled  a  strong  troop  of  foot  soldiers 
and  horsemen,  leaving  at  the  same  time  a  good  garrison 
in  my  quarters.  When  they  saw  us  on  their  side  they 
fell  upon  us  in  great  numbers  so  fiercely  that  never  since 
I  have  been  in  this  country  have  I  been  so  vigorously 
attacked;  and  they  killed  two  horses  and  wounded  ten 
others  so  badly  that  they  were  disabled.  In  the  course 
of  the  day — thanks  to  God — the  enemy  was  defeated, 
and  we  pursued  them  for  more  than  a  league  and  killed 
numbers  of  them.  With  the  thirty  horsemen  remaining 
and  one  hundred  foot  soldiers,  I  continued  my  march, 
and  slept  that  night  in  a  town  three  leagues  from  the  camp 
which  was  found  deserted.  In  the  mosques  of  this  town 
we  found  many  articles  belonging  to  those  Spaniards 
who  had  been  sent  by  Francisco  de  Garay,  and  who 
had  been  killed. 

The  next  day,  I  set  out  along  the  shore  of  the  lake, 
searching  for  a  passage  to  the  other  side  where  we  had 
seen  people  and  towns,  but  I  marched  all  day  without 
finding  it,  nor  any  place  to  cross;  and  towards  the  hour 

Fourth  Letter  173 

of  vespers  we  came  in  sight  of  a  very  beautiful  town,  and 
marched  towards  it  as  it  still  lay  on  the  shore  of  the  lake. 
Upon  approaching,  it  was  already  late  and  no  people 
appeared,  but  to  make  sure  I  sent  ten  horsemen  into  the 
town  by  the  main  road  and  I  with  another  ten  went 
round  towards  the  lake;  for  the  other  ten  were  bringing 
up  the  rear-guard  and  had  not  yet  arrived.  On  entering 
the  town,  a  number  of  people  who  had  been  hiding  in 
ambush  in  the  houses,  so  as  to  take  us  unawares,  came 
out  and  fought  so  stoutly  that  they  killed  a  horse  and 
wounded  almost  all  the  others  besides  many  Spaniards. 
Their  determination  was  such  that  the  battle  lasted  a  long 
time;  though  we  broke  through  them  three  or  four  times, 
they  re-formed  in  a  phalanx,  kneeling  on  the  ground, 
and,  without  speaking  or  shouting  as  the  other  natives 
are  accustomed  to  do,  they  would  await  us;  and  each 
time  we  charged  them  they  discharged  such  a  volley  of 
arrows  against  us  that,  had  we  not  been  well  armoured, 
they  would  have  gained  a  great  advantage,  and  I  believe 
that  none  of  us  would  have  escaped.  It  pleased  our 
Lord  that  some  of  them  who  were  nearest  the  river, 
which  emptied  into  the  lake  near  there  and  whose  course 
I  had  followed  all  day  long,  began  to  throw  themselves 
into  the  water,  and  all  the  others  followed ;  and  thus  they 
dispersed,  though  they  did  not  go  further  than  the  other 
bank  of  the  river.  Thus  they  on  one  side,  and  I  on  the 
other,  remained  until  night  fell,  as  on  account  of  the 
depth  of  the  water  we  could  not  cross  to  them.  Indeed 
we  were  glad  when  they  crossed,  for  we  then  returned  to 
the  town,  about  a  sling's  throw  from  the  river,  where  we 
mounted  guard  and  remained  that  night:  and  we  ate 
the  horse  which  they  killed  for  we  had  no  other  provisions. 
The  next  day,  we  went  out  on  the  road,  for  the  people  of 
the  day  before  did  not  appear;  and  we  marched  through 
three  or  four  towns  where  there  were  no  people  nor  any- 
thing but  a  few  wine  vaults,  in  which  we  found  large 

1 74  Letters  of  Cortes 

numbers  of  earthen  jars  filled  with  wine.  During  the 
whole  day  we  met  no  people,  and  slept  on  the  bare  ground 
at  a  place  where  we  found  some  fields  of  maize,  with 
which  the  people  and  the  horses  somewhat  refreshed 
themselves.  In  this  wise,  I  continued  for  two  or  three 
days,  without  meeting  any  people,  although  we  passed 
through  many  towns.  Being  in  want  of  provisions,  as 
we  had  not  amongst  the  whole  of  us  fifty  pounds  of  bread, 
we  returned  to  the  camp  and  found  the  people  I  had  left 
there  doing  very  well,  and  having  had  no  encounters. 
Seeing  the  entire  population  was  on  the  other  side  of  the 
lake  where  I  had  not  been  able  to  cross,  I  embarked  my 
men,  crossbowmen  and  musketeers,  and  the  horses  during 
one  night,  ordering  them  to  cross  to  the  other  shore 
where  others  of  my  people  would  join  them  by  land. 
Thus  they  arrived  at  a  large  town,  where  they  surprised 
the  inhabitants,  killing  a  large  number  of  them;  the  others 
were  so  frightened,  seeing  themselves  surprised  in  the 
midst  of  their  lakes,  that  they  came  to  seek  peace,  and, 
in  less  than  twenty  days,  the  entire  population  offered 
themselves  as  subjects  and  vassals  to  Your  Majesty. 

When  the  country  was  pacified,  I  sent  people  to  visit 
every  part  of  it,  in  order  to  bring  me  reports  of  the  towns 
and  peoples.     When  these  were  brought,  I  chose 
0f  the  most  suitable  place,  and  founded  there  a 

Santistevan  town  which  I  called  Santistevan  del  Puerto,1 
del  Puerto  establishing  as  inhabitants  those  who  wished 
to  remain,  and  giving  them  in  the  name  of  Your  Majesty 
those  towns  for  their  service.  I  appointed  alcaldes  and 
municipal  officers,  and  left  a  captain  there  as  my  lieu- 
tenant, besides  thirty  horsemen  and  one  hundred  foot 
soldiers;  I  also  left  them  a  barque  and  a  fishing  boat 
which  was  brought  to  me   with   provisions    from  Vera 

i  San  Estevan  del  Puerto  was  built  on  a  narrow  strip  of  land  sep- 
arating Lake  Chila  from  the  sea.  Pedro  de  Valleja  was  placed  there 
as  his  lieutenant. 

Fourth  Letter  175 

Cruz.     One  of  my  servants  also   had  sent  me  a  ship 
with  provisions  of  meat,  bread,  wine,  oil,  and  vinegar, 
but  everything  was  lost,  excepting  three  men  who  took 
refuge  on  a  desert  island  five  leagues  from  the  coast  for 
whom  I  sent  to  search.     They  were  found  in  good  health, 
having  kept  themselves  alive  by  eating  the  seals  which 
were  plentiful  on  the  island,  and  a  kind  of  fruit  like  figs. ! 
I  certify  to  Your  Majesty  that  this  expedition  cost  me 
alone  more  than  thirty  thousand  dollars  in  gold,  as  Your 
Majesty  may  order  to  be  shown  by  the  accounts,  if  such 
is  your  will;  and  those  who  went  with  me  had  as  great 
expenses,  for  horses,  provisions,  arms,  and  horse-shoes, 
which  at  that  time  cost  their  weight  in  gold,  or  twice 
their  weight  in  silver.     But,  to  serve  Your  Majesty  well, 
we  would  have  undertaken  it,  even  had  our  expenses 
been  greater,  for,  besides  putting  those  Indians  under 
the  imperial  yoke  of  Your  Majesty,  our  expedition  pro- 
duced good  results,  for,  immediately  after,  there  arrived 
a  ship  with  many  people  and  provisions  and,  had  the  coun- 
try not  been  at  peace,  none  of  them  would  have  escaped, 
as  had  happened  with  the  others  whom  the  Indians  had 
killed,  and  whose  remains  we  had  found  in  their  temples. 
I  mean  their  skins,  cured  in  such  a  manner  that  we 
recognised  the  faces  of  many  of  them.     When  the  adelan- 
tado,  Francisco  de  Garay,  arrived  in  that  province,  as  I 
shall  relate  to  Your  Caesarian  Majesty  later,  neither  he, 
nor  any  of  those  with  him,  would  have  escaped  alive; 
for  the  wind  drove  them  thirty  leagues  from  Panuco 
where  they  lost  some  ships,  and  the  others  were  driven 
disabled  ashore,  where,  had  they  not  found  the  people 
at  peace,  and  ready  to  carry  them  on  their  backs,  and 
serve  them,  in  a  Spanish  town,   they  would  have  all 
perished,  even  had  there  been  no  other  hostilities.     It 

1  Lobos  marinos  are  sometimes  called  sea-dogs.  The  figs  were  the 
fruit  of  the  nopal  or  Mexican  cactus,  commonly  called  tunas,  which 
are  very  refreshing. 

176  Letters  of  Cortes 

was  thus  a  great  good  fortune  to  find  that  country  at 

In  the  chapter  before  this,  Most  Excellent  Prince,  I 
related  how,  during  my  march  after  the  pacification 
E  diti  n  °^  ^e  Province  °f  Panuco,  the  province  of 
t0  Tututepeque,  which   had   rebelled,  had  been 

South  Coast  again  conquered,  and  all  that  was  done  there. 
Provinces  j  receive(j  news  of  a  province,  called  Im- 
pilcingo,  which  is  near  the  South  Sea,  and  which  is 
much  the  same  as  Tututepeque  in  the  mountainous 
and  rugged  character  of  its  country;  and  the  equally 
war-like  inhabitants  had  done  much  mischief  to  the 
vassals  of  Your  Caesarian  Majesty  on  the  border  of  their 
country;  and  these  had  come  to  complain  of  them  and 
ask  for  help.  Although  my  people  were  not  rested, 
as  the  road  from  one  sea  to  the  other  is  two  hundred 
leagues,  I  immediately  assembled  twenty-five  horsemen 
and  eighty  foot  soldiers,  whom  I  sent  to  that  province 
with  one  of  my  captains ;  I  instructed  him  to  seek  to  win 
the  inhabitants  by  peaceful  means,  and  if  unsuccessful  to 
fight  them.  He  went  there,  and  had  several  encounters 
with  them,  but,  on  account  of  the  ruggedness  of  the 
country,  it  was  impossible  to  conquer  it  entirely.  I  had 
also  ordered  him,  in  the  same  instructions,  that,  having 
accomplished  this,  he  should  go  to  the  city  of  Zacatula, 
and,  to  proceed  with  his  people  and  those  whom  he 
might  collect  there  to  the  province  of  Coliman,  where, 
as  I  have  related  in  the  preceding  chapters,  they  had 
routed  and  captured  the  people  who  had  come  from  the 
province  of  Mechuacan ;  and  to  seek  to  win  them  by  kind- 
ness, but  if  he  could  not,  to  conquer  them.  He  departed, 
and  altogether,  with  the  people  he  took,  and  those  whom 
he  collected  there,  he  assembled  fifty  horsemen  and 
one  hundred  and  fifty  footmen  and  marched  to  the  said 
province  down  the  coast  by  the  South  Sea  about  sixty 
leagues  from  the  city  of  Zacatula.     He  pacified  several 

Fourth  Letter  177 

towns  along  the  road,  and  reached  the  said  province, 
rinding,  at  the  place  where  the  other  captain  had  been 
routed,  many  warriors,  who  were  expecting  him,  con- 
fident that  they  could  treat  him  as  they  had  done  the 
other.  Our  Lord  was  pleased  that  the  victory  in  this 
encounter  should  be  for  us,  none  of  ours  being  killed, 
although  many  men  and  horses  were  wounded ;  the  enemy 
paid  dearly  for  the  mischief  they  had  done,  and  this  pun- 
ishment was  sufficient,  without  further  fighting  to  bring 
the  whole  country  suing  immediately  for  peace;  not 
merely  that  province,  but  many  other  neighbouring 
ones,  which  came  and  offered  themselves  as  vassals  of 
Your  Caesarian  Majesty,  namely:  Aliman,  Colimante, 
and  Ceguatan.  He  wrote  me  from  there  all  that  had 
happened,  and  I  ordered  him  to  seek  a  good  site  to  found 
a  town,  which  he  should  call  Coliman  like  the  province, 
and  I  sent  him  the  nominations  for  alcaldes  and  municipal 
officers,  directing  him  to  visit  the  towns  and  peoples  of 
those  provinces  and  bring  me  the  fullest  reports  of  the 
secrets  of  the  country.  When  he  returned,  he  brought 
this  report,  as  well  as  certain  samples  of  pearls;  and,  in 
the  name  of  Your  Majesty,  I  divided  the  towns  and  those 
provinces  amongst  the  settlers  who  remained  there,  who 
numbered  twenty-five  horsemen  and  one  hundred  and 
twenty  foot  soldiers.  In  his  description  of  these  provinces, 
there  was  news  of  a  very  good  port  on  that  coast,  which 
greatly  pleased  me  because  they  are  few:  he  likewise 
brought  me  an  account  of  the  chiefs  of  the  province  of 
Ceguatan,  who  affirm  that  there  is  an  island  inhabited 
only  by  women  without  any  men,  and  that,  at  given 
times,  men  from  the  mainland  visit  them;  if  they 
conceive,  they  keep  the  female  children  to  which  they 
give  birth,  but  the  males  they  throw  away.  This  island 
is  ten  days'  journey  from  the  province,  and  many  of 
them  went  thither  and  saw  it,  and  told  me  also  that  it 
is  very  rich  in  pearls  and  gold.     I  shall  strive  to  ascertain 

178  Letters  of  Cortes 

the  truth,  and,  when  I  am  able  to  do  so,  I  shall  make  a 
full  account  to  Your  Majesty.1 

On  returning  from  the  province  of  Panuco,  and  while 
in  a  town  called  Tuzapan,  the  two  Spaniards  arrived, 
whom  I  had  sent  with  some  natives  of  Temixtitan  and 
others  of  Soconusco  (which  latter  is  on  the  coast  of  the 
South  Sea,  near  where  Pedrarias  Davila  is  Your  High- 
nesses's  Governor,  two  hundred  leagues  from  this  great 
city  of  Temixtitan)  to  obtain  information  of  some  towns, 
about  which  I  have  heard  for  a  long  time,  and  which  are 
called  Uclaclan  and  Guatemala,  and  which  are  more  than 
seventy  leagues  distant  from  this  province  of  Soconusco. 
There  came  with  these  Spaniards  more  than  one  hundred 
of  the  inhabitants  of  those  two  towns,  sent  by  their  chiefs 
to  declare  themselves  subjects  and  vassals  of  Your  Im- 
perial Majesty.  I  received  them  in  Your  Royal  name 
and  assured  them  that,  if  they  remained  faithful  to  their 
pledge,  they  would  be  well  treated  and  favoured  by  me 
and  my  people  in  Your  Majesty's  name;  and  I  gave  them 
some  presents  of  things  which  they  esteem,  not  only  for 
themselves,  but  also  for  their  chief,  and  sent  two  other 
Spaniards  back  with  them  to  provide  everything  necessary 
along  the  road.  Since  then,  I  have  learned  from  certain 
Spaniards  in  the  province  of  Soconusco,  that  those  cities 
with  their  provinces,  and  another,  called  Chiapan,  near 
there,  have  not  kept  faith,  but  are  molesting  the  towns 
of  Soconusco  because  they  are  our  friends.  On  the  other 
hand,  the  Christians  have  written  to  me  that  they  con- 
stantly send  messengers  to  excuse  themselves,  saying 
that  these  things  had  been  done  by  others,  and  that  they 
had  no  part  in  it.  So,  to  learn  the  truth  of  this,  I  de- 
spatched Pedro  de  Alvarado,  with  eighty  odd  horsemen 

1  The  island  of  the  Amazons  turned  out  to  be  a  myth.  Another 
such  island  is  mentioned  in  Pigafetta's  letter  on  Magellan's  voyage 
as  existing  in  the  Malay  Archipelago,  called  Acoloro  near  Java,  but 
he  says  that  he  only  heard  of  it  from  a  pilot  (Primo  Viaggio  Intorno 
al  Mondo,  Ant.  Pigafetta,  translated  by  A.  Robertson,  1905). 

Fourth  Letter  179 

and  two  hundred  foot  soldiers,  amongst  whom  were  many 
crossbowmen  and  musketeers ;  he  took  four  field  pieces  and 
artillery,  and  a  great  supply  of  ammunition  and  powder. 
I  likewise  had  an  armada  of  ships  built,  of  which  I 
sent  Cristobal  de  Olid  as  captain,  he  having  come  with 
me  to  go  to  the  North  Coast,  where  I  ordered  Cortes 
him  to  make  a  settlement  on  the  Cape  of  named 
Hibueras,  which  is  sixty  leagues  from  the  Bay  Captain  - 
of  Ascension,  beyond  what  is  called  Yucatan,  Genera 
on  the  coast  of  the  mainland  towards  Darien * :  for  I 
have  information  that  that  country  is  very  rich,  and 
many  pilots  believe  that  a  strait  links  that  Bay  with  the 
other  sea,  and  this  is  the  one  thing  in  the  world  which 
I  most  desire  to  discover,  and  which  I  think  would  render 
greatest  service  to  Your  Caesarian  Majesty.  As  these 
two  captains  were  about  to  start,  with  all  preparations 
for  the  march  completed,  I  received  a  message  from  each 
of  them,  from  Santistevan  del  Puerto  which  I  had  founded 

1  This  coast  was  first  reached  by  Rodrigo  de  Bastidas  and  Nicuesa 
in  1502;  the  survivors  of  the  expedition  of  Nicuesa  and  Ojeda  founded 
a  town  there  which  Encisa  named  Santa  Maria  Antigua,  in  honour 
of  the  Blessed  Virgin  venerated  under  that  title  in  Seville ;  Vasco  Nunez 
de  Balboa  was  Governor,  and  Pizarro,  who  later  conquered  Peru, was  one 
of  Ojeda's  companions.  The  hardships  endured  by  Ojeda  and  his  men 
were  beyond  all  human  endurance,  and  the  description  of  their  suffer- 
ings from  disease,  famine,  shipwreck,  and  rebellions  within  the  colony, 
and  fighting  the  Indians  without,  is  one  of  the  most  harrowing  tales  of 
human  misery  and  human  courage  anywhere  to  be  read.  Cortes 
was  providentially  prevented  from  joining  this  expedition  by  a  swelling 
on  his  knee  which  laid  him  up.  The  pilot  and  cosmographer,  Juan 
de  la  Cosa,  was  killed  by  a  poisoned  arrow.  Ojeda  himself  survived, 
but  died  poor  and  obscure  in  San  Domingo.  Gomara  (Hist.  Gen.) 
says  that  he  became  a  monk,  but  Las  Casas  who  mentions  his  wish 
to  be  buried  under  the  threshold  of  the  Church  of  St.  Francisco, 
so  that  all  who  entered  might  tread  upon  his  grave  as  an  act  of  ex- 
piation for  his  sins  of  pride,  does  not  mention  that  he  belonged  to  any 
religious  order. 

The  end  of  Nicuesa  was  even  more  unfortunate,  for  he  was  driven 
from  Darien  by  the  rebellious  colonists,  and,  putting  to  sea  with  a 
few  followers  in  an  unseaworthy  vessel,  poorly  provisioned,  was  never 
seen  again. 

180  Letters  of  Cortes 

on  the  River  Panuco,  telling  me  that  the  Governor 
Francisco  de  Garay  had  arrived  at  Panuco  with  one 
hundred  and  twenty  horse,  four  hundred  foot  soldiers, 
and  numerous  artillery,  proclaiming  himself,  through 
an  interpreter,  whom  he  had  brought  with  him,  governor 
of  the  country ;  he  told  the  Indians  he  would  revenge  the 
ills  they  had  suffered  at  my  hands  in  the  recent  war, 
and  that  they  should  join  with  him  in  driving  out  those 
Spaniards  whom  I  had  placed  there,  and  that  he  would 
help  them;  besides  many  other  scandalous  things  which 
considerably  agitated  the  natives.  To  confirm  my  sus- 
picion of  his  understanding  with  the  Admiral  and  Diego 
Velasquez,  a  few  days  later,  there  arrived  at  the  river 
a  caravel  from  the  island  of  Cuba  having  on  board  certain 
friends  and  servants  of  Diego  Velasquez,  and  a  servant 
of  the  Bishop  of  Burgos,  who  said  that  he  came  as  factor 
for  Yucatan ;  and  the  rest  of  the  company  was  composed 
of  creatures  and  relatives  of  Diego  Velasquez  and  of  the 
Admiral.  When  I  heard  this  news,  although  I  had  a  lame 
arm  from  a  fall  from  my  horse,  and  was  in  bed,  I  decided 
to  go  to  meet  him  and  arrange  the  difficulty,  and  I  im- 
mediately sent  Pedro  de  Alvarado  ahead  of  me  with  all 
the  people  he  had  ready  for  his  march,  while  I  prepared 
to  start  in  two  days.  My  bed  and  baggage  were  already 
on  the  road  and  had  gone  ten  leagues  from  Mexico  to  a 
place  where  I  was  to  join  them,  when,  towards  midnight, 
there  arrived  a  courier  from  Vera  Cruz  who  brought  me 
letters,1  which   had  arrived  from   Spain  in  a  ship,  and 

1  The  fortunate  arrival  of  the  Emperor's  letter  forbidding  Garay  to 
interfere  in  any  way  with  Cortes's  administration,  or  to  settle  any 
lands  already  occupied  by  him,  nipped  this  very  serious  difficulty  in 
the  bud.  Alvarado's  prompt  success  with  Ovalle,  who  yielded  with 
scarcely  a  show  of  resistance,  suggests  that  a  little  golden  diplomacy 
may  have  been  used  with  him  and  his  men,  as  had  been  successfully 
employed  with  Narvaez's  followers  under  similar  circumstances.  The 
ship's  captains  were  equally  amenable,  and  Grijalba  could  not  make 
good  his  intention  to  fight.  The  exhibition  of  the  royal  cedula  ren- 
dered Garay  powerless,  his  prestige  amongst  his  followers  was  hope- 

Fourth  Letter  181 

with  them  a  cedula,  signed  with  the  royal  name  of  Your 
Majesty.  By  this  latter  the  said  Governor  Francisco  de 
Garay  was  commanded  not  to  meddle  in  the  affairs  of 
the  said  river  region,  or  in  any  way  where  I  had  settled, 
as  Your  Majesty  desired  that  I  should  hold  them  in  Your 
Royal  name;  for  which  I  kiss  the  royal  feet  of  Your 
Caesarian  Majesty  a  hundred  thousand  times.  The  ar- 
rival of  this  cedula  interrupted  my  journey,  which  was  of 

lessly  damaged,  and,  meanwhile,  their  imaginations  had  been  so  fired 
by  the  alluring  tales  of  Alvarado  and  Ocampo  that  the  majority  were 
deaf  to  their  leader's  commands  and  entreaties.  They  had  the  tech- 
nical excuse  that  they  had  engaged  for  an  expedition  to  Panuco  under 
certain  stipulated  conditions,  but  for  nowhere  else,  and,  as  to  Panuco, 
Garay  could  not  go,  their  contract  no  longer  bound  them.  Ocampo, 
to  whom  Garay  appealed  to  uphold  his  authority,  made  a  show  of 
beating  the  country  for  fugitives,  but  was  careful  to  collect  only  the 
least  desirable  men,  those  known  as  adherents  of  Velasquez,  whom  he 
was  glad  to  see  leave  the  country.  Reduced  to  these  straits,  Garay 
went  to  Mexico  where  Cortes  played  the  magnanimous,  receiving  him 
as  an  old  friend  and  arranged  a  marriage  between  his  daughter  Catalina 
and  Garay 's  eldest  son. 

On  Christmas  eve,  Garay  assisted  at  midnight  mass  with  Cortes 
and  breakfasted  with  him  afterwards;  the  same  day  he  was  seized 
with  violent  pains  and  died  a  few  days  later;  so  opportune  did  his 
death  seem  to  some,  that  whispers  of  poison  were  not  wanting.  The 
rising  of  the  Indians  of  Panuco  provoked  by  Garay's  lawless  followers 
under  command  of  his  son,  whose  authority  they  ignored,  was  one  of 
the  most  formidable  of  its  kind,  and  its  suppression  by  Alvarado  was 
marked  by  the  ferocious  cruelty  characteristic  of  him.  Ocampo,  as 
lieutenant  of  Cortes,  presided  as  judge  at  the  sham  trial,  passing 
barbarous  sentence  on  about  four  hundred  prisoners,  the  chiefs  and 
principal  men  of  the  tribes.  Of  these  some  were  burned,  while  others 
were  hanged,  and,  in  order  that  the  lesson  might  not  be  lost  on  the 
Indians,  they  were  compelled  to  be  present  at  this  ghastly  execution 
which  took  place  en  masse. 

The  proposed  marriage  between  Dona  Catalina  and  the  son  of  Garay 
never  took  place,  for  she  is  mentioned  in  the  bull  of  legitimisation, 
in  1529,  as  a  maiden:  and,  in  her  father's  will,  made  in  1547,  she  is 
mentioned  as  being  in  a  convent  in  Coyohuacan.  It  is  difficult  to 
identify  her  mother,  for  Archbishop  Lorenzana  says  she  was  the 
daughter  of  Cortes 's  first  wife  Catalina  Xuarez ;  others  affirm  that  her 
mother  was  Marina  de  Escobar,  and  still  others  that  she  was  the 
daughter  of  Dona  Elvira  (daughter  of  Montezuma),  in  which  case  she 
would  have  been  an  infant  at  the  time  of  her  betrothal  to  Garay. 

1 82  Letters  of  Cortes 

advantage  to  my  health,  because  for  sixty  days  I  had 
hardly  slept,  and  was  so  overcome  with  work  that  to 
travel  at  such  a  time  was  to  risk  my  life. 

I  had  however,  put  all  considerations  aside  and  held  it 
better  to  die  on  the  march  than  to  live  and  be  the  cause 
of  such  scandals  and  troubles  and  deaths  as  would  no- 
toriously have  followed;  so  I  immediately  sent  Diego  de 
Ocampo,  alcalde  mayor,  with  the  said  cedula  to  follow 
Pedro  de  Alvarado,  to  whom  I  also  sent  a  letter  ordering 
him  on  no  account  to  go  where  the  people  of  the  adelantado 
were,  so  as  to  avoid  disturbances;  and  I  ordered  the  said 
alcalde  mayor  to  notify  the  adelantado  of  that  cedula 
and  to  let  me  know  immediately  what  he  said.  He 
set  out  as  quickly  as  possible  and  reached  the  province 
of  the  Guatescas,  through  which  Pedro  de  Alvarado 
had  passed  into  the  interior  of  the  province.  When 
the  latter  learned  that  the  alcalde  mayor  had  come,  and 
that  I  had  remained  behind,  he  told  Ocampo  that  one 
of  Garay's  captains,  called  Gonzalo  Dovalle,  was  scouring 
the  country  with  twenty- two  horsemen,  pillaging  the 
villages,  and  disturbing  the  Indians,  and  that  he  had 
been  told  that  this  captain  had  placed  spies  on  the  road 
where  Alvarado  must  pass;  all  of  which  greatly  vexed 
the  said  Alvarado  and  convinced  him  that  Gonzalo 
Dovalle  intended  to  attack  him.  He  pushed  on  ahead 
with  his  people  to  a  village  called  Las  Lajas,  where  he 
found  Gonzalo  Dovalle  with  his  people.  Alvarado  spoke 
with  him  and  told  him  that  he  knew  what  he  had  been 
doing,  and  marvelled  much  at  it,  because  the  governor  and 
his  captains  had  in  no  way  intended  to  offend  the  people 
of  Garay,  but  on  the  contrary  planned  to  aid  them  and 
furnish  them  with  whatever  they  might  need;  however, 
since  things  had  taken  another  turn,  he  asked  him  as  a 
favour,  and  in  order  to  ensure  that  no  scandal  or  mischief 
should  ensue  amongst  the  people  on  one  side  or  the  other, 
not  to  take  it  ill  if  his  arms  and  horses  were  sequestrated 

Fourth  Letter  183 

until  some  agreement  should  be  reached.  Gonzalo 
Dovalle  excused  himself,  assuring  Alvarado  that  he  had 
been  misinformed  as  to  what  had  happened,  but  accepted 
the  conditions  which  were  imposed;  thus  the  two  troops 
were  united,  the  men  living  and  eating  together  without 
any  dissension.  As  soon  as  the  alcalde  mayor  learned 
this,  he  ordered  one  of  my  secretaries,  Francisco  de 
Orduna,  who  had  gone  with  him,  to  go  to  the  captains, 
Pedro  de  Alvarado  and  Dovalle,  taking  an  order  to 
return  the  arms  and  horses  to  their  owners,  and  to  tell 
them  it  was  my  intention  to  aid  and  favour  them  in 
everything  they  might  require,  but  that  they  should  not 
make  trouble  in  the  country;  he  further  counselled 
Alvarado  to  come  to  a  good  understanding  with  Dovalle 
and  not  to  mix  in  any  way  in  his  affairs;  and  this  was 

At  the  same  time,  Most  Powerful  Lord,  it  happened 
that  the  ships  of  the  said  adelantado,  which  were  lying  at 
the  mouth  of  the  River  Panuco  were  a  menace  Events  at 
to  the  inhabitants  of  the  town  of  Santistevan,  Santistevan 
which  I  had  founded  three  leagues  up  the  river  where  all 
the  ships  which  arrived  at  that  port  anchored.  Seeing  this, 
my  lieutenant  in  that  town,  Pedro  de  Vallejo,  wishing  to 
forestall  any  danger  arising  from  possible  troubles  with 
those  ships,  required  the  captains  and  masters  of  them 
to  go  up  the  river  peacefully  without  disturbing  the 
country,  and  he  also  required  them  that,  if  they  had 
any  authority  from  Your  Majesty  to  settle  or  land  in 
that  country  or  for  any  other  purpose,  they  should  exhibit 
it,  protesting  that  it  would  be  complied  with  in  every 
respect  as  Your  Majesty  commanded.  The  captains  and 
masters  answered  these  requirements,  refusing  everything 
the  lieutenant  commanded,  which  obliged  the  latter  to 
issue  a  second  order  to  them,  insisting  anew  on  all  that  he 
had  ordered  in  the  first  requirement  under  certain  penal- 
ties ;  to  this  mandate  they  replied  as  before.     Seeing  there- 

1 84  Letters  of  Cortes 

fore  that  their  remaining  with  the  ships  at  the  mouth  of 
the  river  for  the  space  of  two  months  or  more  would 
result  in  causing  scandal,  not  only  amongst  the  Spaniards, 
but  also  among  the  natives,  two  masters  of  the  said  ships, 
one  Castromocho,  and  the  other  Martin  de  San  Juan  a 
Guipuzcoan,  secretly  sent  messengers  to  the  lieutenant 
telling  him  they  wished  for  peace  and  would  obey  his 
commands,  which  they  thought  just,  and  that  they  would 
do  whatever  he  ordered  them,  adding  that  the  other 
ships  would  likewise  obey  him.  Upon  receiving  this 
information,  my  lieutenant  decided  to  go  aboard  the 
vessels,  accompanied  by  only  five  men;  he  was  re- 
ceived by  the  pilots  with  all  respect,  and  from  there  he 
sent  to  Juan  de  Grijalba,  the  commander  of  the  fleet,  on 
board  the  flag-ship  and  summoned  him  to  obey  the  or- 
ders which  had  already  been  communicated  to  him.  The 
said  captain  not  only  refused  to  obey,  but  he  ordered 
the  other  ships  to  unite  with  his  and  surround  the  other 
two  above  mentioned  and  fire  upon  them  with  their 
artillery  and  sink  them:  this  order  was  made  public, 
and  everybody  heard  it,  and  my  lieutenant  responded 
by  ordering  the  artillery  of  the  two  ships  which  obeyed 
him  to  be  prepared.  Meanwhile,  the  captains  and 
masters  of  the  ships  about  the  flag-ship  refused  to  obey 
Grijalba's  orders,  seeing  which,  he  sent  a  notary,  called 
Vicente  Lopez,  to  my  lieutenant  to  arrange  matters.  My 
lieutenant  answered  that  he  came  there  merely  to  ne- 
gotiate peace  and  prevent  the  scandals  which  the  pres- 
ence of  these  ships  outside  the  port  provoked,  as  they 
seemed  like  pirates  ready  to  make  a  raid  on  the  domin- 
ions of  Your  Majesty,  which  sounded  very  badly,  ad- 
vancing other  reasons  in  support  of  this  opinion.  These 
arguments  prevailed  upon  the  notary  Vicente  Lopez  to 
return  with  the  reply  to  Captain  Grijalba  whom  he  in- 
formed of  all  he  had  heard  from  the  lieutenant,  persuad- 
ing the  captain  to  obey,  for  it  was  clear  that  the  said 

Fourth  Letter  185 

lieutenant  was  the  justice  of  that  province  for  Your 
Majesty,  and  the  said  Captain  Grijalba  knew,  that  neither 
the  Governor,  Francisco  de  Garay,  nor  he  himself  had 
presented  any  royal  provisions  which  the  lieutenant  and 
inhabitants  of  Santistevan  were  bound  to  obey,  and  that 
it  was  a  very  ugly  thing  to  act  in  this  way;  for  they 
were  behaving  like  pirates  in  Your  Majesty's  dominions. 
Convinced  by  these  reasons,  Captain  Grijalba,  and  the 
captains  and  masters  of  the  other  ships,  obeyed  the  lieu- 
tenant and  went  up  the  river  to  where  ships  usually 

Upon  arriving  at  the  port,  the  lieutenant  ordered  the 
said  Juan  de  Grijalba  to  be  imprisoned  for  the  disobedience 
he  had  shown  to  his  mandates  but  when  this  juan  ^e 
imprisonment  became  known  to  him,  the  alcalde  Grijalba 
mayor  immediately  ordered  the  said  Juan  Gri-  ImPnsoned 
jalba  to  be  set  free  the  next  day  and  that  he  and  all  the 
others  should  be  treated  kindly;  and  thus  it  was  done.  In 
like  manner,  the  said  alcalde  mayor  wrote  to  Francisco  de 
Garay,  who  was  in  another  port  ten  or  twelve  leagues  further 
South,  telling  him  that  I  was  unable  to  come  and  see  him 
but  that  I  had  sent  him  with  my  power  of  attorney  to 
come  to  some  agreement  and  exhibit  our  provisions  on  one 
side  and  on  the  other  so  as  to  decide  what  might  best 
advance  Your  Majesty's  service.  As  soon  as  Francisco 
de  Garay  saw  the  letter  of  the  alcalde  mayor  he  came  to 
meet  him  and  was  very  well  received,  and  his  people 
were  provided  with  all  necessaries.  At  this  meeting, 
after  having  discussed  and  seen  the  provisions  and  the 
cedula  which  Your  Majesty  had  so  graciously  sent  me, 
the  said  adelantado  obeyed  it,  and  declared  that  in 
compliance  with  it,  he,  with  his  people,  would  retire  to 
his  ships  and  go  to  settle  in  some  other  country  beyond 
the  boundaries  designated  in  Your  Majesty's  cedula: 
and  since  I  wished  to  assist  him,  he  besought  the  alcalde 
mayor  to  collect  all  his  people,  for  many  of  them  wished 

1 86  Letters  of  Cortes 

to  stop  there  and  others  had  gone  off,  and  also  to  supply 
him  with  provisions  for  the  ships  and  people  of  which 
he  stood  in  need.  The  alcalde  mayor  immediately  pro- 
vided everything  he  asked,  and  it  was  published  by 
the  public  crier,  in  the  port  where  most  of  the  people 
of  both  sides  were  staying,  that  all  persons  who  had  come 
in  the  armada  of  the  adelantado,  Francisco  de  Garay, 
should  join  him  under  penalty  that,  whoever  did  not, 
if  he  were  a  horseman,  he  should  lose  his  arms  and  horse 
and  be  imprisoned  by  the  adelantado,  and  if  a  foot 
soldier,  he  should  receive  one  hundred  stripes  and  likewise 
be  imprisoned. 

The  adelantado  likewise  asked  the  alcalde  mayor  that, 
inasmuch  as  some  of  his  people  had  sold  their  arms  and 
Difficulties  h°rses  m  the  Por^  °f  Santistevan,  and  in  the 
of  port  where  they    stopped,  and   elsewhere  in 

Francisco  the  neighbourhood,  they  might  be  returned 
e  aray  to  him,  because  without  arms  and  horses  his 
people  would  be  of  no  use;  the  alcalde  mayor  ordered 
the  horses  and  arms  to  be  taken  wherever  they  might  be 
found  and  to  be  returned  to  the  adelantado.  The  alcalde 
mayor  also  sent  out  and  seized  all  those  who  had  deserted, 
and  many  were  thus  captured  and  brought  in.  He  also 
sent  the  alguacil  mayor  of  Santistevan,  with  a  secretary 
of  mine,  to  ensure  in  that  town  and  port,  the  same  diligence 
in  proclaiming  by  the  public  crier  and  capturing  de- 
serters and  in  collecting  all  the  provisions  possible  for 
the  ships  of  the  adelantado ;  besides  which  he  ordered  the 
arms  and  horses  which  had  been  sold  there  also  to  be 
taken  and  brought  back  to  the  adelantado.  All  this 
was  done  with  great  diligence,  and  the  adelantado  left 
for  the  port  to  embark,  while  the  alcalde  mayor  remained 
behind  with  his  people  so  as  not  to  make  too  great  de- 
mands on  the  supplies  of  the  port,  and  in  order  to  provide 
the  better  for  everything;  and  he  stopped  there  six  or 
seven  days  to  see  that  all  I  had  ordered  was  executed. 

Fourth  Letter  187 

The  alcalde  mayor  wrote  to  the  adelantado,  that  if  he 
desired  anything  else,  to  let  him  know,  as  he  was  re- 
turning to  Mexico  where  I  was;  and  the  adelantado  sent 
a  messenger  to  say  that  he  had  not  been  able  to  get  ready 
to  sail,  as  six  ships  were  wanting,  and  those  which  re- 
mained were  not  seaworthy,  and  that  he  was  preparing 
a  statement  which  would  prove  to  me  how  impossible  it 
was  for  him  to  leave  the  country.  He  told  him  at  the 
same  time  that  his  people  raised  a  thousand  objections, 
pretending  that  they  were  not  obliged  to  follow  him,  and 
that  they  had  appealed  from  the  commands  which  my 
alcalde  mayor  had  given  them,  saying  they  were  not 
obliged  to  comply  with  them  for  sixteen  or  seventeen 
reasons  which  they  assigned;  one  of  them  was  that  some 
of  his  people  had  already  died  of  starvation,  and  other 
not  very  weighty  reasons  touching  his  own  person.  He 
likewise  stated  that  all  his  precautions  to  keep  his  men 
together  were  useless,  as  they  disappeared  in  the  evening 
without  coming  back  next  morning,  and  those  who  were 
one  day  delivered  to  him  as  prisoners  again  deserted 
the  next  day  when  they  got  their  liberty ;  and  it  had  hap- 
pened that  between  night  and  morning  two  hundred  men 
had  left.  For  this  reason,  the  adelantado  besought  my 
alcalde  mayor  most  earnestly  not  to  leave  until  they  had 
seen  each  other,  because  he  wished  to  come  with  him 
to  this  city  to  see  me,  and  said  that,  if  the  alcalde  mayor 
left  him  thus  he  would  drown  himself  in  despair.  After 
receiving  this  letter  the  alcalde  mayor  decided  to  wait 
for  him,  and,  two  days  later,  when  he  arrived,  they  sent 
a  messenger  to  me,  by  whom  the  alcalde  made  known  to 
me  that  the  adelantado  was  coming  to  see  me  in  this  city, 
and  that  they  would  come  slowly  as  far  as  Cicoaque, 
which  is  on  the  border  of  this  province,  where  they  would 
await  my  answer.  The  adelantado  also  wrote  me, 
describing  the  bad  condition  of  his  ships  and  the  ill-will 
his  people  displayed,  and  said  that  he  believed  I  might 

1 88  Letters  of  Cortes 

find  a  remedy  by  providing  some  of  my  people  and  what- 
ever else  he  might  need;  for  he  was  aware  that  nobody 
else  could  help  him  and  hence  he  had  decided  to  come 
to  see  me:  and  that  he  offered  me  his  eldest  son  with 
all  he  possessed,  hoping  to  leave  him  with  me  as  my 
son-in-law  by  marriage  with  a  small  daughter  of  mine. 

Meanwhile,  when  they  were  about  starting  for  this 
city,  it  being  clear  to  the  alcalde  mayor  that  some  very 
Concerning  suspicious  persons  had  come  in  the  armada 
Francisco  of  Francisco  de  Garay,  friends  and  servants 
de  Garay  0f  Diego  Velasquez,  who  had  shown  themselves 
hostile  to  my  undertakings,  and,  being  aware  that  they 
could  not  safely  remain  in  the  said  province,  without 
stirring  up  tumults  and  disturbances,  he  ordered,  by  virtue 
of  the  royal  provisions  Your  Majesty  sent  me  authorising 
me  to  expel  all  such  scandalous  persons  from  the  country, 
that  Gonzalo  Figueroa,  Alonzo  de  Mendoza,  Antonio  de  la 
Cerda,  Juan  de  Avila,  Lorenzo  de  Ulloa,  Taborda,  Juan 
de  Grijalba,  Juan  de  Medina,  and  others,  should  leave. 
After  this  was  done,  the  adelantado  and  the  alcalde  mayor 
came  as  far  as  the  town  of  Cicoaque,  where  they  received 
my  answer  to  the  letters  they  had  sent  me  in  which  I  wrote 
that  I  rejoiced  much  at  the  arrival  of  the  adelantado,  and 
that,  on  reaching  this  city,  we  would  come  to  an  amicable 
understanding  about  all  he  had  written  to  me,  with 
which  he  would  be  fully  satisfied.  I  had  likewise  ordered 
the  chiefs  of  the  towns  along  the  road  to  provide  him 
fully  with  everything  necessary. 

When  the  adelantado  arrived  here,  I  received  him 
with  every  hospitality  such  as  I  would  have  shown 
for  my  brother,  for  I  was  sincerely  grieved  at  the  loss 
of  his  ships  and  at  the  rebellion  of  his  people,  and  I 
offered  him  my  services,  truly  desiring  to  do  everything 
possible  for  him.  He  wished  very  much  to  carry  out  the 
plan  he  had  written  me  about  the  marriage,  and  again 
importuned  me  so  persistently,  that,  in  order  to  please 

Fourth  Letter  189 

him,  I  agreed  to  everything  he  asked.  So,  with  mutula 
consent,  a  binding  agreement  was  made,  under  oath, 
leading  to  the  consummation  of  the  said  marriage,  on 
condition  that  Your  Majesty,  after  learning  the  contents 
of  our  agreement,  should  approve  of  it;  thus,  besides 
our  ancient  friendship,  we  were  joined  by  the  mutual 
contracts  and  engagements  which  we  made  for  our  chil- 
dren, and  were  both  satisfied  with  the  conditions  thereof, 
especially  the  adelantado. 

In  the  preceding  chapter,  Most  Powerful  Lord,  I  told 
Your  Catholic  Majesty  of  all  my  alcalde  mayor  had  done 
to  collect  the  adelantado's  men,  who  were  scattered  over 
the  country,  and  the  steps  he  had  taken  for  this  purpose, 
which,  in  spite  of  their  being  so  many,  were  not  sufficient 
to  calm  the  dissatisfaction  felt  against  Francisco  de 
Gar  ay;  for  they  feared  they  would,  in  accordance  with 
the  orders  published  by  the  public  crier,  be  forced  to 
accompany  him.  The  deserters  had  penetrated  to  the 
interior  of  the  country  in  bands  of  three  and  six  together, 
in  different  places,  so  that  they  could  not  be  captured. 
This  led  to  much  disturbance  amongst  the  Indians,  who 
saw  the  Spaniards  scattered  over  the  country,  and  the 
many  disorders,  which  they  aroused  by  seizing  the  native 
women  and  supplies,  and  to  a  general  rising  of  the 
whole  country ;  for  the  natives  believed  what  the  adelan- 
tado had  published  on  his  arrival,  namely:  that  there 
existed  dissension  among  the  different  commanders,  as 
I  have  already  related  to  Your  Majesty.  Thus,  the  In- 
dians astutely  got  information  as  to  where  those  several 
Spaniards  were,  and,  both  by  day  and  night,  they  would 
fall  upon  them  in  the  towns  where  they  were  scattered 
and,  taking  them  unawares  and  disarmed,  they  easily 
killed  a  good  number  of  them.  Their  boldness  grew  to 
such  a  pitch  that  they  came  to  Santistevan  del  Puerto, 
which  I  had  settled  in  the  name  of  Your  Majesty,  where 
they  pressed  the  inhabitants  very  hard  with  their  fierce 

190  Letters  of  Cortes 

attacks,  so  much  so  that  the  latter  gave  themselves  up 
for  lost,  as  indeed  they  would  have  been  had  they  not 
been  prepared  and  collected  where  they  could  fortify 
themselves  and  withstand  their  adversaries.  When 
things  were  in  this  state,  I  received  news  of  what  had 
happened  by  a  messenger,  who  had  escaped  on  foot  from 
the  contests  and  told  me  that  all  the  province  of  Panuco 
had  rebelled  and  had  killed  many  of  the  adelantado's 
Spaniards  who  had  remained  there,  and  also  some 
householders  of  the  town  I  had  established  there  in  the 
name  of  Your  Majesty;  and,  from  his  account,  I  fear 
that  none  of  the  Spaniards  survive,  for  which  God  our 
Lord  knows  what  I  suffer !  No  such  occurrence  can 
happen  in  these  parts  without  costing  much  and  risking 
the  loss  of  all.  The  adelantado  was  much  impressed 
by  this  news,  not  only  because  it  seemed  to  him  that  he 
was  the  cause  of  it,  but  also  because  he  had  left  his  son 
in  that  province  with  all  his  possessions;  so  much  so 
indeed,  that  his  chagrin  brought  on  an  illness  from  which 
he  died  within  the  space  and  term  of  three  days. 

That  Your  Highness  may  be  better  informed  of  what 
occurred,  I  relate  that  the  Spaniard,  who  first  brought 
Rebellion  the  news  of  the  rising  of  the  natives  of  Panuco, 
in  Panuco  told  me  that  he,  a  foot  soldier,  and  three 
horsemen,  had  been  surprised  by  the  Indians  in  a  village 
called  Tacetuco  * ;  that  these  Indians  had  killed  the  foot 
soldier,  two  of  the  horsemen,  and  the  horse  of  the  third, 
and  that  he  and  the  surviving  horseman  had  fled  under 
cover  of  night ;  they  had  observed  a  house  in  the  village 
where  a  lieutenant,  fifteen  horsemen,  and  forty  foot  soldiers 
should  have  waited  for  them,  but  the  house  was  burned 

^anjuco:  a  small  village,  one  hundred  and  twenty-seven  miles 
from  the  mouth  of  the  Panuco,  and  less  than  half  that  distance  over- 
land. The  Panuco  country  was  carefully  visited  and  described,  in 
1826,  by  Captain  Lyon,  whose  Journal  contains  much  interesting 
information  about  the  land  and  people.  He  found  the  Guasteca 
language  was  spoken  there. 

Fourth  Letter  191 

and  he  believed,  according  to  certain  indications,  that 
these  men  had  been  massacred.  I  had  waited  six  or  seven 
days  for  any  other  news  when  a  messenger  arrived  from 
the  lieutenant  in  a  town,  called  Tenertequipa, *  which  is 
subject  to  this  city  and  is  on  the  boundaries  of  that 
province;  by  his  letter  he  made  known  to  me  that,  while 
he  was  in  Tacetuco  with  fifteen  horsemen  and  forty  foot 
soldiers  expecting  some  people  to  join  him  preparatory 
to  crossing  the  river  to  pacify  certain  towns,  his  quarters 
had  been  surrounded  just  before  dawn,  one  night,  by  a 
great  number  of  people  who  set  fire  to  them.  Though 
he  and  his  men  had  mounted  very  quickly  they  had  been 
taken  off  their  guard  for  they  had  believed  in  the  friend- 
ship of  those  people;  and  he  thinks  all  were  killed  but 
himself  and  two  other  horsemen  who  had  escaped;  his 
own  horse  had  been  killed  and  one  of  his  men  had  to  take 
him  up  behind  him.  Two  leagues  from  there,  they  met 
the  alcalde  of  that  town  who  came  to  their  assistance 
with  some  people,  but  they  did  not  tarry  long  and  left 
the  province  as  quickly  as  possible.  He  had,  however, 
no  news,  either  of  those  who  had  stayed  in  the  town,  or 
of  the  men  of  Francisco  de  Garay,  but  he  believed  there 
was  not  one  left  alive. 

As  I  have  told  Your  Majesty,  after  the  adelantado  had 
proclaimed  to  the  natives  throughout  the  province  that 
I  was  no  longer  to  have  anything  to  do  with  them, 
since  he  was  the  Governor  whom  they  must  obey, 
and  that  by  uniting  with  him  they  would  expel  all  my 
Spaniards,  the  town  had  revolted,  and  the  natives  re- 
fused afterwards  to  serve  the  Spaniards,  even  killing 
some  whom  they  met  alone  on  the  roads.  The  lieutenant 
believed  that  what  had  been  done  was  by  concerted  action 
of  all  the  Indians  and,  as  they  had  attacked  him  and 
his  people,  that  they  must  have  done  the  same  to  the 
inhabitants  of  the  town,  as  well  as  to  those  who  were 

»  Possibly  Tantoyuca. 

192  Letters  of  Cortes 

scattered  amongst  the  neighbouring  villages,  all  of  whom 
were  ignorant  of  any  such  revolt,  seeing  that  the  natives 
had,  until  then,  served  them  willingly.  Having  satis- 
fied myself  by  this  news  that  a  rebellion  existed  in  that  pro- 
vince, and  having  heard  of  the  death  of  those  Spaniards, 
I  sent,  with  the  greatest  possible  haste,  a  Spanish  captain 
in  command  of  fifty  horsemen  and  one  hundred  foot 
soldiers,  crossbowmen  and  musketeers,  with  four  pieces  of 
artillery,  much  powder,  and  ammunition,  and  two  native 
chiefs  of  this  city  each  with  fifteen  thousand  of  their 
warriors.  I  ordered  the  captain  to  march  without  stop- 
ping anywhere  to  the  town  of  Santistevan  del  Puerto  to 
obtain  news  of  the  inhabitants  there,  as  perhaps  they  had 
been  besieged ;  and  if  so,  to  help  them.  This  was  done 
with  all  haste,  and,  after  entering  the  province,  the  cap- 
tain fought  the  Indians  at  two  places;  and  God,  our  Lord, 
having  given  him  the  victory,  he  continued  his  march 
to  the  said  town,  where  he  found  twenty- two  horsemen 
and  one  hundred  foot  soldiers  who  had  been  besieged  there. 
They  had  defended  themselves  with  certain  pieces  of 
artillery  against  six  or  seven  attacks,  although  they  could 
not  have  held  out  much  longer  as  it  had  been  done  only 
with  the  greatest  difficulty;  and  had  the  captain  I  sent 
been  delayed  three  days  more  not  one  of  them  would  have 
been  left  alive,  for  they  were  already  dying  of  hunger. 
They  had  sent  one  of  the  adelant ado's  brigan tines  to  Vera 
Cruz  to  let  me  know  their  condition  by  that  way  (as  they 
could  not  send  news  by  any  other  messenger)  and  also  to 
bring  them  provisions,  which  afterwards  was  done,  al- 
though they  had  already  been  succoured  by  my  people. 
My  captain  there  learned  that  Francisco  de  Garay's  people, 
left  in  a  town,  called  Tamequil,  !  in  all  about  a  hundred 
foot  soldiers  and  horsemen,  had  been  killed,  without  one 
escaping,  with  the  exception  of  an  Indian  from  the  island 
of  Jamaica.     He  managed  to  escape  through  the  forest, 

1  Possibly  Tamuy  or  Tancanhuici. 

Fourth  Letter  193 

and  from  him  the  news  of  how  they  were  attacked  at 
night  was  obtained.  It  was  ascertained  that  two  hundred 
and  ten  men  of  the  adelantado's  people  had  been  killed, 
and  also  forty-three  of  the  inhabitants  I  had  left  in  that 
town,  who  were  going  about  their  villages  which  they 
held  under  encomienda1 ;  it  was  even  believed  that  the 
adelantado's  people  were  more  numerous,  though  they 
could  not  remember  them  all.  There  were  altogether, 
including  those  whom  the  captain  had  taken  with 
him  and  the  lieutenants  and  the  alcalde's  people 
and  the  inhabitants,  eighty  horsemen  who  were 
divided  into  three  companies.  During  the  war  they 
carried  on  in  the  province,  they  captured  about  four 
hundred  chiefs  and  notable  persons,  besides  others  of 
lower  class,  all  of  whom — I  speak  of  the  chiefs — were 
burned,2  having  confessed  that  they  had  instigated  the 
war  and  that  each  had  participated  in  the  killing  of  Span- 
iards; the  other  persons  were  then  liberated,  and,  through 
them,  the  people  were  brought  back  to  the  towns.  The 
captain  then  appointed,  in  Your  Majesty's  name,  new 
chiefs  from  among  the  rightful  heirs,  according  to  their 
laws  of  inheritance.  At  that  time  I  received  letters  from 
the  captain  and  other  persons  who  were  with  him  assuring 
me  that — God  be  praised — the  whole  province  was  en- 
tirely pacified  and  subdued,  the  natives  serving  them 
faithfully;  and  I  believe  the  past  ill-feeling  will  be 
forgotten  and  there  will  be  peace  for  the  whole  year. 
Your  Caesarian  Majesty  may  believe  that  these  people 
are  so  turbulent  that  any  novelty  or  preparation  for 
disturbance  excites  them,  for  they  have  been  used  to 

1  See  Appendix  at  the  close  of  this  Letter. 

2  Some  authors  have  sought  to  cast  doubts  upon  the  number 
burned,  Herrera  even  reducing  them  to  thirty,  but  the  language  of 
Cortes  seems  to  be  sufficiently  explicit.  To  drive  the  lesson  well  home, 
the  Indians  were  all  assembled  to  witness  this  frightful  execution  of 
their  relatives.  Gonzalo  de  Sandoval  was  the  Captain  commanding 
in  this  war,  and  it  is  with  reluctance  that  we  record  this  black  deed 
against  his  otherwise  exceptionally  fair  fame. 

VOL.  II — 13 

194  Letters  of  Cortes 

rebelling  against  their  chiefs  and  never  lost  an  occasion 
to  do  this. 

In  the  past  chapters,  Very  Catholic  Lord,  I  said  that, 
when  I  heard  of  the  adelantado's  arrival  at  Panuco,  I  had 
Expedition  prepared  a  certain  armada  of  ships  and  people  to 
to  send  to  the  Cape  of  Hibueras,  and  gave  the  rea- 

Honduras  son  ^^  m0Ved  me  to  do  this;  and  that  the 
arrival  of  the  said  adelantado  had  caused  me  to  suspend 
things,  believing  that  he  was  endeavouring  to  take  pos- 
session of  this  country  by  his  authority,  and  in  order  to 
resist  any  such  attempt  I  needed  all  my  people.  Having 
terminated  the  affairs  of  the  adelantado,  although  a  great 
outlay  for  the  payment  of  seamen  and  provisions  for  the 
ships  and  people  was  necessary,  it  seemed  to  me  that 
Your  Majesty's  service  required  that  I  should  fulfil  the 
intention  I  had  conceived;  so  I  bought  five  more  large 
ships  and  a  brigantine,  and  gathered  four  hundred  men, 
with  artillery,  ammunitions,  arms,  and  other  provisions 
and  stores.  I  sent  two  of  my  agents  to  the  island  of 
Cuba  with  eight  thousand  pesos  of  gold  to  buy  horses 
and  provisions,  not  only  for  this  first  voyage,  but  also 
to  have  them  in  readiness  for  the  return  of  the  ships, 
so  that  there  would  be  no  excuse  for  not  following  my 
orders;  and  I  also  did  this  to  avoid  demanding  provisions 
from  the  natives  of  the  country,  for  it  was  better  to  give 
to  them  rather  than  to  take  from  them.  They  departed, 
with  these  instructions,  from  the  port  of  San  Juan  de 
Chalchiqueca  on  the  nth  of  January,  1524,  being  obliged 
to  go  first  to  Havana,  which  is  the  point  of  the  island 
of  Cuba  where  they  are  to  get  what  they  require,  es- 
pecially the  horses,  and  to  assemble  the  ships  there  from 
whence — with  God's  blessing — they  will  continue  their 
route  to   Hibueras.1      Upon    their  arrival  at  the  first 

1  Olid's  expedition  left  Vera  Cruz  on  January  zz,  1524,  and 
stopped  first  at  Cuba,  where  the  commander  fell  under  the  influence 
of  Diego  Velasquez,  who  incited  him  to  throw  off  the  authority  of 
Cortes  and  act  independently.     The  first  news  of  his  insubordination 

Fourth  Letter  195 

port,  they  are  to  land  the  people,  horses,  and  provisions, 
and  fortify  themselves,  with  their  artillery — of  which 
they  take  plenty — in  the  best  position  they  can  choose, 
and  there  establish  a  settlement;  three  of  the  largest 
ships  are  then  to  go  to  Cuba,  to  the  port  of  Trinidad, 
because  that  is  the  best  place  and  because  one  of  my 
agents  has  everything  in  readiness  there  which  the  com- 
mander of  the  expedition  may  require.  The  other  smaller 
ships  and  the  brigantine,  with  the  chief  pilot — who  is  a 
cousin  of  mine  called  Diego  Hurtado — in  command,  are 
to  cruise  along  the  coast  of  the  Ascension  Bay,  searching 
for  the  strait  which  is  believed  to  be  there,  and,  after 
discovering  everything  about  it,  are  to  return  to  wherever 
Captain  Cristobal  de  Olid  may  be,  sending  me  one  of  the 
ships  with  an  account  of  what  they  have  discovered  so 
that  I  may  make  a  complete  report  of  all  that  has  been 
done  to  Your  Catholic  Majesty. 

I  also  said  that  I  had  prepared  certain  people  to  go  with 

was  brought  to  Cortes  by  the  factor,  Gonzalo  de  Salazar,  and  led  to 
his  sending  his  kinsman,  Francisco  de  las  Casas,  to  recall  Olid  to  his 
obedience.  Olid  had  sent  a  part  of  his  forces  against  Gonzalo  de 
Avila,  who  was  also  exploring  in  that  country,  and,  upon  Las  Casas's 
arrival,  he  temporised,  seeing  that  he  could  not  successfully  resist; 
and  while  thus  gaining  time,  he  sent  hurriedly  to  recall  his  men.  A 
violent  storm  drove  the  ships  of  Las  Casas  on  the  coast,  and  thus  he 
and  his  men  were  easily  captured,  and,  at  the  same  time,  Gonzalo 
de  Avila  was  likewise  taken,  so  Olid's  star  was  in  the  ascendant. 
His  triumph  was  short  lived,  however,  for  he  had  rendered  himself 
very  unpopular  in  the  colony,  of  which  fact  his  prisoners,  who  had 
complete  liberty  to  go  about,  with  the  sole  restriction  that  they  were 
not  to  carry  arms,  took  advantage  to  plan  a  successful  rebellion  against 
him.  He  was  captured,  and,  after  a  summary  trial,  was  beheaded  in 
the  public  square  of  Naco.  The  Audiencia  of  San  Domingo  had 
sought  to  forestall  these  conflicts  amongst  Spaniards,  by  sending  their 
agent,  the  bachelor  Moreno,  to  order  Las  Casas  back  to  Vera  Cruz,  to 
put  an  end  to  the  contests  between  Olid  and  Avila,  and  to  stop  Pedro 
de  Alvarado,  who  was  marching  overland  against  Olid  by  order  of 
Cortes.  Moreno's  proceedings,  and  those  of  his  companion  Ruano,  are 
recounted  in  the  memorial  read  by  the  colonists  to  Cortes,  which  the 
latter  transcribes  in  the  Fifth  Letter  for  the  Emperor's  information. 

196  Letters  of  Cortes 

Pedro  de  Alvarado  to  those  cities  of  Uclatan  1  and  Guate- 
mala which  I  have  mentioned  in  preceding  chapters, 
Expedition  and  to  other  provinces  of  which  I  have  heard 
to  beyond  them,  and  also  how  this  had  been  inter 

Tehuantepec  j^pted  by  the  arrival  of  Francisco  de  Garay. 
Although  I  had  already  incurred  great  expenses  for  horses 
and  horsemen,  artillery  and  ammunition,  as  well  as  for 
money  advanced  to  help  the  people,  I  believed  this  to  be 
for  the  service  of  God,  our  Lord,  and  Your  Sacred  Majesty, 
and,  according  to  the  accounts  of  those  parts  which  I  had 
received,  I  expected  to  discover  many  new  and  rich  lands 
and  strange  inhabitants,  so  I  reverted  to  my  original 
intention.  In  addition  to  what  I  had  already  provided 
for  the  last  expedition,  I  again  fitted  out  Pedro  de 
Alvarado,  and  despatched  him  from  this  city  on  the  6th 
of  December,  1523,  and  he  took  one  hundred  and  twenty 
horsemen,  so  that  with  his  relays,  he  had  one  hundred 
and  seventy  horses  and  three  hundred  foot  soldiers  of 
which  latter  one  hundred  and  thirty  were  crossbowmen 
and  musketeers ;  he  also  took  four  field  pieces  of  artillery, 
with  plenty  of  powder  and  ammunition,  and  he  was  ac- 
companied by  some  chiefs,  both  of  this  city  and  from 
its  neighbourhood,  who  brought  some  people  with  them, 
though  not  very  many,  as  the  journey  was  so  long. 

I  have  heard  that  they  arrived  in  the  province 
of  Tecuantepeque  on  the  12th  of  January,  and  that 
everything  was  going  well.  May  it  please  our  Lord  to 
guide  them  and  the  others,  for  I  readily  believe  that, 
acting  in  His  service  and  in  the  Royal  name  of  Your 
Caesarian  Majesty,  great  success  will  not  be  wanting. 

I  also  recommended  Pedro  de  Alvarado  always  to 
take  special  care  to  send  me  a  complete  account  of  every- 
thing that  happens  to  him  so  that  I  may  report  to  Your 
Highness.  I  am  positive  from  the  reports  I  have  had 
about  that  country  that  Pedro  de  Alvarado  and  Cristobal 

1  Ucatlan. 

Fourth  Letter  197 

de  Olid  will  meet  each  other  if  they  are  not  separated 
by  the  strait. 

I  would  have  undertaken  many  of  these  expeditions 
and  discovered  many  of  the  secrets  of  this  country  had 
I  not  been  hindered  by  the  armadas  which  have 
arrived  here.  I  assure  Your  Sacred  Majesty  against  the 
that  your  service  has  been  much  injured,  Zapotecas 
not    only    because    countries    have  not   been  and 

discovered,  but  because  much  great  wealth  in 
gold  and  pearls  has  not  been  procured  for  Your  Royal 
Treasury.  Hereafter,  however,  if  others  do  not  come, 
I  shall  strive  to  recover  what  has  been  lost,  because 
nothing  which  depends  upon  my  efforts  shall  be  left 
undone;  for  I  certify  to  Your  Caesarian  and  Sacred  Ma- 
jesty that,  besides  having  spent  all  that  I  possessed,  I 
owe  money,  which  I  have  taken  from  the  funds  of  Your 
Majesty  for  my  expenses,  amounting,  as  Your  Majesty 
may  see  from  my  accounts,  to  sixty  thousand  pesos  of 
gold,  besides  another  twelve  thousand  which  I  borrowed 
from  various  persons  for  my  household  expenses. 

I  said  in  the  foregoing  chapter  that  some  of  the  natives 
of  neighbouring  provinces  who  were  near  about,  and  who 
served  the  inhabitants  of  the  town  of  Espiritu  Santo,  had 
revolted  and  killed  certain  Spaniards,  and  that,  both 
for  the  purpose  of  reducing  them  to  the  royal  service  of 
Your  Majesty,  as  well  as  for  winning  over  others  of  their 
neighbours,  as  the  people  of  the  town  are  not  strong 
enough  to  hold  what  has  been  won  and  conquered,  I 
sent  a  captain  with  thirty  horsemen  and  one  hundred 
foot  soldiers,  some  of  them  crossbowmen  and  musketeers, 
together  with  two  field  pieces  and  provisions  and  ammun- 
ition and  powder.  He  left  on  the  8th  of  December,  1523. 
I  have  thus  far  had  no  news  of  them,  but  expect  to  obtain 
good  results  from  this  expedition  for  the  service  of  God, 
our  Lord,  and  Your  Majesty,  and  hope  that  they  will 
discover    many    secrets    in    that    country,    which    is   a 

i98  Letters  of  Cortes 

small  territory  lying  between  the  one  conquered  by 
Pedro  de  Alvarado  and  the  other  by  Cristobal  de  Olid. 
Including  this  small  bit,  the  land  conquered  along  the 
North  Sea  comprises  a  territory  of  more  than  four  hundred 
leagues  which  is  now  subject  to  Your  Majesty,  and  on  the 
southern  coast  the  conquered  country  extends  from  one 
sea  to  the  other,  without  interruption,  for  more  than  five 
hundred  leagues,  with  the  exception  of  two  provinces, 
one  of  which  is  called  Zaputecas  and  the  other  Mixes, 
which  lie  between  the  province  of  Tecuantepeque  and 
that  of  Chinanta  and  Guaxaca  and  that  of  Guazaqualco. 
The  mountains  here  are  rugged  and  difficult,  so  that  they 
can  hardly  be  crossed,  even  on  foot,  for  twice  I  have 
sent  people  to  conquer  them  but  they  have  never  been 
able  to  do  anything  against  these  Indians,  who  are  well 
armed  and  entrenched  in  their  mountains.  They  fight 
with  lances  twenty-five  and  thirty  palms  long,  very 
thick,  and  well  made,  with  points  of  flint,1  and  they 
have  defended  themselves  with  these  and  killed  some 
Spaniards,  and  have  done,  and  are  doing,  great  mischief 
to  their  neighbours  who  are  Your  Majesty's  vassals, 
assaulting  them  by  night  and  burning  their  towns  and 
killing  them;  to  such  an  extent  have  they  done  this  that 
many  towns  have  rebelled  and  joined  with  them.  To 
prevent  this  spreading,  although  I  am  at  present  short 
of  men,  I  collected  one  hundred  and  fifty  foot  soldiers — 
the  cavalry  being  useless — most  of  them  crossbowmen 
and  musketeers,  and  four  field  pieces  with  necessary 
ammunition.  This  force  I  put  under  the  command  of 
Rodrigo  Rangel,  alcalde  of  Espiritu  Santo,  who,  last  year, 
had  already  marched  against  these  same  Indians  but 
could  not  rout  them  on  account  of  the  rainy  season  which 
obliged  him  to  return  after  two  months  spent  in  their 

i  Obsidian:  a  vitreous  mineral  substance,  harder  than  glass,  which 
was  called  iztli  by  the  Aztecs.  They  gave  it  such  a  keen  edge  that 
it  served  for  knives  and  razors  as  well  as  spearheads. 

Fourth  Letter  199 

He  left  this  city  with  his  people  on  the  5  th  of  February 
of  this  present  year,  and  I  believe  that — God  willing — 
since  they  take  a  good  equipment  and  go  at  a  good  season 
with  many  skilful  Indian  warriors  of  this  city  and  its 
neighbourhood,  they  will  put  an  end  to  the  strife  there, 
which  will  redound  greatly  to  the  Imperial  Crown  of  Your 
Majesty;  for  not  only  do  these  people  render  no  service 
but  they  molest  those  who  are  well  disposed.  The  coun- 
try is  very  rich  in  gold  mines,  and,  once  these  people  are 
pacified,  our  settlers  say  that  they  will  get  possession  of 
them  and  reduce  to  slavery  those  people,  who  had  once 
offered  themselves  to  Your  Majesty,  and  had  afterwards 
rebelled  and  had  killed  the  Spaniards,  and  done  every 
mischief.  I  ordered  that  those  who  were  captured 
should  be  branded  with  Your  Highness 's  mark,  and,  after 
separating  the  part  belonging  to  Your  Majesty,  that  the 
rest  should  be  distributed  amongst  the  members  of  the 

Most  Excellent  Lord,  I  may  assure  Your  Royal  Ex- 
cellency that  the  least  of  these  expeditions  cost  me  more 
than  five  thousand  pesos  of  gold,  and  those  of  Pedro  de 
Alvarado  and  Cristobal  de  Olid  cost  more  than  fifty 
thousand  pesos  in  monies,  besides  other  outlays  from  my 
property  which  are  not  accounted  or  set  down  in  the 
memoranda;  but  if  it  will  only  conduce  to  the  service 
of  Your  Caesarian  Majesty,  although  it  should  cost  my 
own  life  I  would  deem  it  sufficient  recompense  to  ever 
devote  myself  to  the  service  of  Your  Highness. 

In  the  last  account,  and  also  in  this,  I  have  mentioned  to 
Your  Majesty  that  I  had  begun  to  build  four  ships  on  the 
South  Sea,  and,  as  some  time  has  passed  since  ship- 

they  were  begun,  it  may  seem  to  Your  Royal  building 
Highness  that  I  have  been  slow  in  finishing  them;  but  I 
now  give  Your  Sacred  Majesty  the  cause,  which  is  that  the 
port  on  the  South  Sea  where  these  ships  are  building,  is  two 
hundred  leagues,  and  even  more,  from  the  ports  on  the 

200  Letters  of  Cortes 

North  Sea  where  all  material  which  arrives  in  this  New  Spain 
is  delivered,  and  there  are  very  steep  mountain  passes  in 
some  parts,  and  in  others  great  rivers,  over  which  every- 
thing required  for  the  said  ships  must  be  carried,  as 
nothing  can  be  obtained  elsewhere.  Another  thing  also 
happened,  which  was  that  when  I  had  got  together  the 
sails,  cordage,  nails,  anchors,  tar,  tallow,  tow,  bitumen, 
oil,  and  everything  else  required,  and  stored  them  in  a 
house  in  that  port,  it  took  fire  and  everything  was  burned, 
except  the  anchors,  which  could  not  burn.  I  have  now 
again  begun,  as  a  ship  arrived  from  Castile,  four  months 
since,  bringing  me  everything  necessary  for  the  ships; 
as,  foreseeing  the  possibility  of  what  had  happened,  I 
had  already  ordered  material  to  be  sent.  And  I  certify 
to  Your  Caesarian  Majesty  that  the  ships  cost  me  to-day, 
before  launching  them  on  the  water,  more  than  eight 
thousand  pesos  of  gold,  without  the  extra  outlays,  but 
now — our  Lord  be  praised — they  are  in  such  a  condition 
that,  between  the  Feast  of  the  Holy  Ghost  and  that  of 
St.  John  in  June,  they  will  be  ready  for  navigation  if 
the  tar  does  not  fail  me,  for  I  have  not  been  able  to 
replace  that  which  was  burned,  though  I  have  ordered 
more  to  be  sent  me.  I  attach  more  importance  to  these 
ships  than  I  can  say,  for  I  am  positive  that — God  willing 
— I  shall  discover  for  Your  Majesty  more  kingdoms  and 
dominions  than  all  those  discovered  up  till  now,  and 
that,  with  His  guidance,  my  projects  may  succeed  ac- 
cording to  my  desires,  and  Your  Highness  will  become 
the  Sovereign  of  the  World. 

After  God  our  Lord  granted  that  this  great  city  of 
Temixtitan  should  be  subdued,  it  did  not  seem  to  me  well 
to  live  in  it,  for  many  reasons,  so  I  brought  all  the  people 
to  a  town,  called  Coyuacan,  on  the  shore  of  the  lake  which 
I  have  already  mentioned.  As  I  always  desired  that 
this  city  should  be  rebuilt,  because  of  its  great  and  mar- 
vellous position,   I  strove  to  collect  the  natives,  who, 

Fourth  Letter  201 

since  the  war,  were  scattered  in  many  parts,  and,  though 
I  still  held  the  ruler  of  it  a  prisoner,  I  charged  a  captain- 
general  of  his,  whom  I  knew  in  the  days  of  Montezuma, 
to  repeople  it;  and,  in  order  that  he  might  enjoy  greater 
authority,  I  gave  him  the  same  office  he  had  held  in  the 
time  of  his  sovereign,  which  is  that  of  Ciguacoat,  meaning 
"lieutenant  of  the  sovereign,"  and,  at  the  same  time,  I 
appointed  other  personages  whom  I  knew  to  the  principal 
offices  which  they  had  formerly  held.  I  gave  these  new 
officers  such  lordships  of  territory  and  people  as  were 
necessary  to  maintain  themselves,  though  not  as  much 
as  they  had  before,  or  enough  to  make  them  dangerous; 
and  I  always  take  care  to  honour  and  favour  them.  They 
have  done  very  well,  so  that  now  the  city  is  peopled  with 
about  thirty  thousand  households,  and  is  just  as  orderly 
in  the  market-places  as  it  formerly  was ;  moreover  I  have 
given  them  such  liberties  and  immunities  that  they  will 
increase  in  great  numbers ;  for  they  live  quite  as  they  please 
and  many  artisans  live  by  their  work  among  the  Span- 
iards, such  as  carpenters,  masons,  stone-cutters,  silver- 
smiths, and  others.  Merchants  trade  in  safety,  and  others 
live  as  fishermen,  which  is  an  important  business  in  this 
city,  and  others  by  agriculture,  for  there  are  already 
many  who  have  their  plantations  sown  with  all  kinds  of 
vegetables  which  we  have  obtained  from  Spain.  I  assure 
Your  Caesarian  Majesty  that,  could  we  but  obtain  plants 
and  seeds  from  Spain,  and  if  Your  Highness  would  be 
pleased  to  order  them  sent  to  us  as  I  besought  in  my 
other  account,  the  ability  of  these  natives  in  culti- 
vating the  soil  and  making  plantations  would  very 
shortly  produce  such  abundance  that  great  profit 
would  accrue  to  the  Imperial  Crown  of  Your  Highness; 
for  even  greater  revenues  can  be  procured  for  Your 
Sacred  Majesty  in  these  parts  than  what  Your  High- 
ness now  enjoys  in  those  you  possess  in  the  name 
of   God   our   Lord.     Your   Highness  may  rest   assured 

202  Letters  of  Cortes 

that  I  shall   strive  with   all   my   mind   and   power   to 
achieve  this  end. 

Immediately  after  the  capture  of  this  city,  I  took  steps  to 
establish  a  fort  in  the  water  where  the  brigantines  might  be 
Fortification  kept  safely,  and  from  where  I  might  control  the 
of  Mexico  whole  city  should  there  be  any  occasion  for  it, 
and  the  exit  and  entrance  remain  in  my  hands.  It  was  con- 
structed in  such  wise  that,  although  I  have  seen  some  forts 
and  arsenals,  I  have  seen  none  that  equals  it,  and  many 
others  affirm  the  same  as  myself;  and  it  has  been  built 
in  this  wise:  on  the  side  towards  the  lake,  it  has  two 
very  strong  towers,  provided  with  loop-holes :  these  two 
towers  are  joined  by  a  building  in  the  form  of  three  naves, 
where  brigantines  are  kept,  and  which  have  doors  towards 
the  water  for  going  in  and  out;  and  all  this  building  is 
provided  also  with  loop-holes,  and  on  the  end  towards  the 
city  there  is  another  large  tower,  with  many  rooms  above 
and  below  for  offensive  and  defensive  operations.  But, 
as  I  shall  send  a  plan  to  Your  Majesty  to  make  this  more 
clearly  understood,  I  shall  give  no  more  particulars 
about  it,  but,  holding  these  with  the  ships  and  artillery, 
peace  or  war  is  in  our  hands  as  we  choose.  Once  this 
building  was  finished,  everything  seemed  secure  for  re- 
peopling  the  city,  so  I  returned  there  with  all  my  people, 
and  distributed  plots  of  ground  to  the  householders; 
and  to  each  of  those  who  had  been  conquerors  I  gave,  in 
the  name  of  Your  Highness,  a  plot  of  ground  in  recom- 
pense for  their  services,  besides  the  one  they  received  as 
citizens. 1  And  so  well  and  quickly  does  work  go  on  in 
these  parts,  that  many  of  the  houses  are  finished  and 
others  are  well  advanced,  for  there  is  an  abundance  of 
stone,  lime,  wood,  and  bricks  which  the  natives  make, 

1  Tlatelolco  and  Popotla  were  the  quarters  of  the  new  town  assigned 
to  the  Indians.  A  plan  was  drawn  in  which  each  concession  of  ground 
was  marked;  one  lot  was  given  to  anyone  who  applied,  on  the  condition 
that  he  should  build  a  house  and  live  there  for  four  consecutive  years. 
Each  of  the  conquerors,  as  Cortes  says,  was  entitled  to  two  lots. 

Fourth  Letter  203 

so  that  the  houses  are  mostly  large  and  good,  and  Your 
Sacred  Majesty  may  believe  that,  within  five  years,  this 
will  be  the  most  nobly  populated  city  which  exists  in 
all  the  civilised  world,  and  will  have  the  finest  buildings. 

The  town  where  the  Spaniards  have  settled  is  distinct 
from  that  of  the  natives,  for  an  arm  of  water  separates 
us,  although  there  are  bridges  of  wood  which  connect 
them.  There  are  two  great  native  markets,  one  in 
their  quarter  and  one  in  the  Spanish  quarter, l  where 
every  sort  of  provisions  can  be  bought;  for  the  people 
come  from  all  over  the  country  to  sell,  and  there  is  no 
scarcity  as  sometimes  happened  in  the  days  of  its  pros- 
perity. It  is  true  that  now  there  are  no  jewels  of  gold, 
silver,  or  feather  work  and  other  rich  things,  as  there  used 
to  be,  although  some  small  miserable  pieces  of  gold  and 
silver  appear,  but  not  as  formerly. 

Owing  to  Diego  Velasquez's  ill-will  towards  me,  and 
that  of  Don  Juan  de  Fonseca,  Bishop  of  Burgos,  who 
is  influenced  by  him,  and  in  consequence  of  the  orders 
of  the  officials  of  the  Casa  de  la  Contratacion  of  Seville, 
particularly  Juan  Lopez  de  Recalde,  accountant  of  it, 
on  whom  everything  in  the  time  of  the  Bishop  used  to 
depend,  I  have  not  been  provided  with  the  artillery  nor 
the  arms  which  I  needed,  though  I  have  many  times  sent 
the  money  for  them.  However,  as  nothing  exercises  a 
man's  ingenuity  like  necessity,  and  as  I  laboured  under 

1  The  Indian  market  remained  where  it  had  been  in  Tlatelolco ; 
the  Spanish  one  was  on  the  square  before    the  Viceroy's  palace. 

The  Indians  either  speedily  forgot  their  arts  and  handicrafts,  or 
concealed  them:  unwise  laws  were  enacted  which  tended  also  to 
suppress  them. 

Archbishop  Lorenzana  relates  an  incident  illustrating  the  extra- 
ordinary ability  of  the  Indians  in  executing  the  most  delicate  work  with 
primitive  tools.  A  native  counterfeiter  was  arrested  and  his  whole 
outfit  was  found  to  consist  of  nothing  but  some  thorns  from  the  maguey 
or  cactus  plant.  The  Viceroy  was  so  amazed  that  he  offered  the  man 
his  life  if  he  would  show  how  he  worked,  but  the  Indian  preferred  to 

204  Letters  of  Cortes 

such  an  extreme  one,  and,  since  they  did  not  permit  Your 
Majesty  to  know,  had  no  hope  of  help,  I  strove  to  take 
steps  toward  saving  what  had  been  won  by  such  labour 
and  danger  (for  such  a  loss  would  have  been  a  disaster 
to  the  service  of  God,  our  Lord  and  that  of  Your  Caesarian 
Majesty) ,  and  also  ourselves  from  the  peril  which  menaced 
us.  I  hastened  therefore  to  find  copper  in  the  provinces, 
offering  a  good  price  that  it  might  be  the  more  quickly 
found;  and,  as  soon  as  it  was  brought  to  me  in  sufficient 
quantity,  I  set  a  master  of  artillery,  who  was  fortunately 
here,  at  making  two  medium-sized  culverins.  These 
came  out  so  well  that,  considering  their  size,  they  could 
not  have  been  better.  Besides  the  copper,  tin  was  re- 
quired for  these,  as  they  could  not  be  made  without  it, 
and,  though  with  great  difficulty  and  cost,  I  had  pro- 
cured some  from  people  who  had  tin  plates  or  other 
vessels ;  but  neither  dear  nor  cheap  could  much  be  found, 
so  I  began  to  enquire  whether  there  was  any  in  the  coun- 
try. Thanks  to  our  Lord,  who  always  provides  speedily 
what  is  most  needed,  some  small  pieces  of  it  were  found 
among  the  natives  of  a  province,  called  Tachco, *  in  the 
form  of  very  thin  coins;  and  continuing  my  search  I 
discovered  that  in  that  province  and  many  others  this 
was  used  as  money;  I  further  learned  that  it  was  mined 
in  the  province  of  Tachco,  twenty-six  leagues  from  this 
city  so  I  sent  Spaniards  with  implements  there  and  they 
brought  me  a  sample  of  metal.  From  this  time  forward  I 
ordered  the  necessary  quantity  to  be  extracted,  and  shall 
continue  to  work  these  mines,  though  it  will  be  difficult ; 
while  searching  for  these  metals  a  rich  vein  of  iron  was 
found  as  I  learned  from  those  who  say  they  know  it. 

Since  finding  this  tin,  I  have  made,  and  daily  continue 
to  make  cannon;  so  far  there  are  five  pieces,  two  medium- 

1  Tasco.  Humboldt  was  struck  with  this  mention  of  tin  money 
and  notes  "le  passage  remarquable  dans  lequel  Cortes  parle  de  Vetain 
comme  monnaie"  (Essai  Politique). 

Fourth  Letter  205 

sized  culverins,  two  a  little  smaller,  and  a  serpentine 
cannon;  I  have  two  falconets  which  I  brought  with  me 
to  these  parts  and  a  medium-sized  culverin  Manufac- 
which  I  bought  from  the  sale  of  the  adelantado  ture  of 

Juan  Ponce  de  Leon.  I  shall  have  in  large  and  Ammunition 
small  bronzes  all  those  which  have  arrived  on  the  ships 
at  Vera  Cruz,  thirty-five  pieces  and  of  iron  Lombardy 
guns,  culverins  of  smaller  calibre,  and  other  guns  and 
field  pieces  of  smelt  iron  up  to  seventy  pieces.  Thus — 
our  Lord  be  praised — we  are  able  to  defend  ourselves ; 
and  as  far  as  ammunition  is  concerned,  God  provided 
for  that  likewise,  for  we  found  a  sufficient  quantity  of 
saltpetre  of  the  best  quality  and  vessels  in  which  to  bake 
it,  though  there  was  much  waste  at  first.  As  for  sulphur, 
I  have  spoken  to  Your  Majesty  of  that  mountain  in  the 
province  of  Mexico  which  smokes.  A  Spaniard1  de- 
scended by  means  of  a  rope,  seventy  or  eighty  fathoms, 
and  obtained  a  sufficient  quantity  to  last  us  in  our  need ; 
but  henceforward  there  will  be  no  necessity  of  going  to 
this  trouble  because  it  is  dangerous  and  I  shall  always 
write  to  obtain  these  things  from  Spain  since  Your 
Majesty  has  been  pleased  that  there  should  be  no 
longer  any  Bishop  to  prevent  it. 

After  establishing  peace  in  Santistevan,  which  was 
founded  on  the  river  Panuco,  and  having  finished  the 
conquest  of  Tututepeque,  and  despatched  the  Transfer  of 
captain  who  went  to  Impilcingo  and  to  Coliman,  Medellin 
all  of  which  I  mentioned  in  one  of  the  past  chapters,  I  went, 
before  going  to  the  city,  to  visit  Vera  Cruz  and  Medellin 
that  I  might  provide  certain  necessary  things  in  those 
ports.  I  observed  that  for  want  of  any  Spanish  settle- 
ment near  the  port  of  Chalchiqueca  other  than  that  of 

1  Francisco  Montafio  was  the  daring  soldier  who  performed  this 
exploit,  which  Humboldt  refuses  to  believe,  notwithstanding  the 
explicit  statement  of  Cortes.  That  he  was  let  down  into  the  crater, 
and  did  bring  back  the  required  sulphur  can  hardly  be  questioned: 
perhaps  the  exact  distance  he  descended  was  not  accurately  measured. 

206  Letters  of  Cortes 

Vera  Cruz  all  the  ships  arriving  there  unloaded  in  that 
town :  the  port  is  far  from  being  safe,  and  many  ships  are 
lost  there  on  account  of  the  Northers  that  frequently  blow. 
I  therefore  sought  a  place  nearer  the  port  of  San  Juan 
suitable  for  founding  a  town,  but,  in  spite  of  our  efforts, 
we  found  nothing  but  drifting  sandhills,  until  finally, 
after  some  days'  search,  it  pleased  our  Lord  that,  two 
leagues  from  the  port,  a  good  site,  with  all  requisites  for 
establishing  a  town  was  found;  for  there  was  plenty  of 
wood  and  water  and  pasturage,  though  there  was  no 
timber  nor  stone  for  building  purposes  except  quite  far 
from  there.  We  found  an  inlet  near  this  place,  and  I 
sent  to  see  if  it  led  to  the  sea  or  if  barques  might  come 
up  it  to  the  town.  It  was  found  to  lead  to  a  river  which 
flowed  into  the  sea;  and  at  the  mouth  of  the  river  there 
was  more  than  a  fathom  of  water,  so  that  by  cleaning  that 
inlet,  which  is  full  of  trunks  of  trees,  the  barques  could 
ascend  to  the  very  houses  of  the  town  and  unload  their 
cargoes.  Seeing  the  convenience  of  this  site  for  the 
safety  of  the  ships,  I  moved  thither  the  town  of  Medellin, 
which  was  about  twenty  leagues  in  the  interior  of  the 
province  of  Tatalptetelco ;  and  already  most  of  the  house- 
holders have  gone  there  and  built  their  houses,  and  steps 
have  been  taken  to  clear  that  inlet  and  establish  a  custom 
house,  for  although  the  ships  are  delayed  in  discharging, 
by  means  of  canoes  over  a  distance  of  two  leagues,  they 
will  have  safe  anchorage.  I  am  certain  that  this  town 
will  be  second  to  the  capital  in  New  Spain,  for  already 
some  ships  have  unloaded  there,  and  barques  and  even 
brigantines  bring  their  merchandise  right  up  to  the  houses 
of  the  town.  I  will  endeavour  to  arrange  so  that  they 
may  unload  without  trouble,  and  the  ships  will  hence- 
forward be  safe  in  that  good  port ;  I  have  likewise  hastened 
to  make  roads  from  that  town  to  this  city,  so  that  the 
merchandise  will  be  more  quickly  delivered  than  at 
present  and  the  distance  shortened. 

Fourth  Letter  207 

In  the  past  chapters,  Most  Powerful  Lord,  I  have  told 
Your  Excellency  to  what  points  I  had  sent  people,  both 
by  sea  and  land,  believing  that,  with  God's  search  for 
guidance,  Your  Majesty  would  be  well  served  the  strait 
by  them ;  and,  as  I  always  take  great  care  and  bethink  me  of 
all  possible  means  to  carry  out  my  desires  for  the  advance- 
ment of  the  royal  service  of  Your  Majesty,  it  seemed  to  me 
that  it  remained  only  to  explore  the  coast  from  Panuco  to 
the  coast  of  Florida,  which  was  discovered  by  Juan  Ponce 
de  Leon,  and  from  there  to  follow  the  coast  of  Florida 
towards  the  north  as  far  as  the  Bacallaos.  *  For  it  is 
believed  absolutely  that  there  is  a  strait  on  that  coast  which 
leads  to  the  South  Sea,  and  if  it  should  be  found  according 
to  a  certain  drawing  which  I  have  of  that  coast,  it  must 
lead  very  near  to  where  the  Archipelago  was  discovered 
by  Magellanes  under  Your  Highness 's  commands.  And 
should  it  please  God,  our  Lord,  that  the  said  strait  be 
found  there,  it  would  open  a  good  and  short  passage 
from  the  spiceries  to  these  dominions  of  Your  Majesty 
quite  two-thirds  shorter  than  that  which  is  at  present 
followed,  and  which  will  be  free  from  risks  and  dangers 
to  the  ships;  for  they  would  then  always  go  and  come 
through  the  dominions  of  Your  Majesty  having  facilities 
for  repairs  in  any  port  they  choose  to  enter.  I  thought 
over  to  myself  the  great  service  which  would  be  rendered 
to  Your  Majesty,  though  I  am  quite  wasted  and  ex- 
hausted by  all  I  have  done,  and  spent  in  the  expeditions 

1  Bacallaos.  This  is  the  first  known  project  for  rinding  the  north- 
west passage.  Bacallaos,  or  the  sea  of  codfish  was  so-called  from 
the  vast  numbers  of  these  fish  which  have  been  such  an  important 
article  of  commerce  on  our  North  Atlantic  coasts.  The  Spaniards 
reached  Newfoundland,  called  by  them  Terra  Nuova;  and  Archbishop 
Lorenzana  mentions  in  one  of  his  notes  that  the  Marques  del  Valle 
(in  his  time)  bore  the  title  of  Duke  of  Terranuova.  This  is  true, 
but  has  no  reference  to  the  discovery  of  that  land  by  Cortes's  efforts, 
as  the  title  was  created  by  Philip  II.,  in  1561,  and  given  to  Don  Carlos 
de  Aragon,  second  Marques  of  Terranuova,  who  married  Dona  Stefana, 
a  great  granddaughter  of  Cortes. 

208  Letters  of  Cortes 

I  have  fitted  out  by  land  and  sea  and  in  providing 
ammunition  and  artillery  in  this  city,  and  in  many 
other  expenses  and  outlays  which  daily  occur;  for  all 
our  provisions  are  expensive  and  of  such  excessive  prices 
that,  although  the  country  is  rich,  the  income  I  obtain 
does  not  correspond  to  the  outlays,  costs,  and  expenses 
which  I  have — yet  repeating  all  I  have  said  before,  and 
setting  all  personal  interest  aside,  I  have  determined  to 
prepare  three  caravels  and  a  brigantine,  of  which  the 
cost  will  reach  more  than  ten  thousand  pesos  of  gold 
which  I  swear  to  Your  Majesty  I  shall  have  to  borrow. 
I  add  this  new  service  to  those  I  have  already  rendered, 
for  I  hold  it  to  be  the  most  important,  hoping  as  I  do 
to  find  the  strait;  and  even  if  this  should  not  be  found, 
certainly  many  good  and  rich  countries  will  be  dis- 
covered, where  Your  Caesarian  Majesty  will  be  served, 
and  other  dominions  in  considerable  number  will  be 
brought  under  Your  Imperial  Crown.  If  there  be  no  such 
strait,  then  it  will  be  useful  that  this  be  known,  so  that 
other  means  may  be  discovered  by  which  Your  Caesarian 
Majesty  may  draw  profits  from  the  Spicelands  and  other 
countries  bordering  on  them.  Thus  I  hold  myself  at 
Your  Majesty's  service,  very  happy  if  you  will  so  com- 
mand me,  and,  in  the  absence  of  the  strait,  I  hope  to 
conquer  these  countries  at  less  expense  than  anyone 
else;  but  I  pray  the  Lord,  nevertheless,  that  my  armada 
may  attain  the  object  I  pursue,  which  is  to  discover  the 
strait,  for  that  would  be  the  happiest  of  all  results.  Of 
this  I  am  well  convinced,  because,  to  the  royal  good 
fortune  of  Your  Majesty,  nothing  can  be  denied,  and 
diligence  and  good  preparation  and  zeal  will  not  be 
wanting  on  my  part  to  achieve  it. 

I  likewise  expect  to  send  the  ships  I  have  built  on 
the  South  Sea,  which  vessels — our  Lord  being  willing — 
will  sail  down  the  coast  at  the  end  of  July  of  this  year 
1524  in  search  of  the  same  strait;  for  if  it  exists  it  cannot 

Fourth  Letter  209 

escape  both  those  who  go  by  the  South  Sea  and  those 
who  go  by  the  North;  for  the  South  Sea  Expedition  will 
go  till  they  either  find  it  or  reach  the  country  discovered 
by  Magellanes,  and  those  of  the  North,  as  I  have  already 
said,  until  they  reach  the  Bacallaos.  Thus  on  one  side 
or  the  other  we  cannot  fail  to  discover  the  secret.  I 
certify  to  Your  Majesty  that,  judging  by  my  information, 
I  should  have  obtained  greater  returns  and  rendered 
greater  service  to  Your  Majesty  by  sending  these  ships 
to  the  countries  up  the  coast  of  the  South  Sea,  but,  as  I 
am  informed  of  Your  Majesty's  desire  to  discover  this 
strait,  and  of  the  greater  service  your  royal  crown  would 
thereby  receive,  I  ignore  all  other  profits  and  interests 
to  follow  this  other  expedition.  May  our  Lord  grant 
it  as  it  best  pleases  Him,  and  may  Your  Majesty's  desire 
be  satisfied,  and  my  desire  to  serve  be  likewise  gratified. 

Your  Majesty's  officials  sent  to  take  charge  of  Your 
Royal  revenues  and  assets  have  arrived,  and  have  begun 
to  take  the  accounts  of  those  who  previously  had  this 
charge,  which  I  in  Your  Highness's  name  had  given 
them.  As  these  officials  will  submit  the  statement  which 
has  been  kept  until  now  to  show  Your  Majesty,  I  will 
not  speak  of  it  again,  in  any  particular,  but  refer  myself 
to  their  report,  believing  that  it  will  be  one  from  which 
Your  Majesty  may  perceive  the  solicitude  and  vigilance 
that  I  have  always  exercised  in  everything  touching 
Your  Royal  service.  Although  the  occupation  of  the 
wars  and  the  pacification  of  this  country  has  been  so 
great,  as  is  manifested  by  the  above,  I  have  nevertheless 
not  forgotten  to  take  special  care  to  collect  and  secure 
the  greatest  possible  revenues  for  Your  Majesty. 

It  will  appear  by  the  copy  of  the  accounts  which  the 
said  officials  send  to  Your  Caesarian  Majesty  that  I  have 
used  some  sixty-two  thousand  pesos  in  gold  from  Your 
Royal  revenues  in  all  the  necessary  expenses  of  pacifying 
these  countries  and  the  extension  of  the  dominions  Your 

VOL.    II— 14 

210  Letters  of  Cortes 

Majesty  holds  in  them.  It  is  well  that  Your  Highness 
should  know  that  I  could  not  do  otherwise  for  I  began 
to  spend  these  monies  only  after  I  had  nothing  left  of 
my  own  to  spend,  and  when  I  even  owed  more  than 
thirty  thousand  pesos  of  gold  which  I  had  borrowed.  As 
there  was  nothing  else  to  be  done,  and  as  I  could  not 
otherwise  meet  the  necessary  demands  of  the  royal  serv- 
ice of  Your  Highness,  I  was  forced  to  spend  these  sums; 
and  I  do  not  believe  that  the  result  obtained,  and  to  be 
obtained,  is  very  small,  for  it  certainly  pays  a  profit  of 
one  thousand  per  cent.  Although  Your  Majesty's  officials 
are  satisfied  that  the  amounts  have  been  spent  in  your 
service,  they  will  not  enter  them  in  the  account,  for  they 
say  they  have  no  power  to  do  this.  I  beseech  Your 
Majesty  to  order  that  it  be  shown  they  were  properly 
spent,  and  admit  them  in  the  account,  and  also  to  com- 
mand fifty  odd  thousand  pesos  of  gold  which  I  have 
spent  out  of  my  own  fortune  or  have  borrowed  from  my 
friends  to  be  repaid  me  for  if  this  is  not  returned  to  me  I 
shall  be  unable  to  repay  those  who  loaned  me  them,  and 
will  find  myself  in  great  want.  I  do  not  think  that  Your 
Catholic  Majesty  will  permit  this,  but  rather  order  that 
they  be  paid  me,  and  will  grant  me  many  and  greater 
favours  in  addition,  because,  Your  Highness  being  so 
Catholic  and  so  Christian  a  Prince,  my  own  services 
are  not  without  merit,  to  which  the  fruits  they  have 
produced  bear  testimony. 

I  have  learned  from  these  officials,  and  from  other 
persons  who  came  with  them,  as  well  as  by  letters  from 
Fate  of  the  Spain,  that  the  articles  I  sent  Your  Caesarian 
Treasure  Majesty  by  Antonio  de  Quinones  and  Alonzo  de 
Avila,  my  procurators  in  New  Spain,  did  not  reach  Your 
Royal  presence  having  been  captured  by  the  French  l 

*  This  treasure  never  reached  its  destination.  Alonzo  de  Avila 
and  Antonio  de  Quinones,  the  two  officers  charged  to  carry  the  gifts 
and  letters  to  the  Emperor,  first  stopped  at  the  island  of  Santa  Maria, 

Fourth  Letter  211 

because  of  the  little  care  which  the  Casa  de  Contratacion 
at  Seville  used  for  their  transport  from  the  Azores.  All 
the  objects  which  were  sent  were  so  rich  and  so  strange  that 
I  greatly  desired  Your  Majesty  might  see  them,  for,  besides 
the  profit  Your  Highness  would  have  from  them,  my  ser- 
vices would  have  become  more  apparent ;  and  I  was  much 
grieved  for  their  loss.  I  do  rejoice,  however,  that  they 
were  taken,  because  Your  Majesty  has  but  small  need  of 
them  and  I  will  endeavour  to  send  others  much  richer  and 
more  curious,  judging  from  the  information  I  have  about 
provinces  I  have  now  sent  to  conquer,  and  others  which 
I  will  conquer  when  I  have  people  for  the  purpose.  The 
French  and  the  other  princes  to  whom  those  things  may 
become  known  will  also  know  through  them  the  reason 
why  they  are  subjected  to  the  Imperial  Crown  of  Your 
Caesarian  Majesty,  as,  besides  many  great  kingdoms  which 
Your  Highness  has  in  these  parts,  so  far  and  distant, 
from  these,  I,  the  humblest  of  Your  vassals,  come 
rendering  such  and  so  many  services.  In  fulfilment  of 
my  offers,  I  now  send  by  Diego  de  Soto  my  servant  some 
trifles,  which  were  formerly  left  behind  as  not  worthy 
to  accompany  the  others,  and  some  which  I  have  since 
then  obtained,  which,  although  as  I  have  before  said, 
they  were  refused  as  unworthy,  bear  some  resemblance 
to  the  others.  I  likewise  send  a  silver  culverin, l  which 
in  its  smelting  required  two  thousand  four  hundred  and 
fifty  pounds,  in  which  I  believe  there  was  even  some  gold, 

one  of  the  Azores,  where  Quifiones  was  killed  in  a  brawl;  Avila  was 
captured  off  Cape  St.  Vincent,  by  a  French  corsair,  Florin,  who,  after 
robbing  the  ship  of  the  precious  freight,  allowed  it  to  continue  its 
voyage  to  Seville,  where  it  arrived  on  November  7,  1522.  Avila 
was  carried  by  Florin  to  La  Rochelle,  but  found  means  to  send  his 
despatches  to  the  Emperor.  The  Aztec  spoils  went  to  enrich  the 
treasury  of  Francis  I.  of  France,  who  justified  their  capture  by 
saying  he  knew  of  no  provision  in  father  Adam's  will  which  made  his 
brother  of  Spain  sole  heir  to  all  the  earth's  treasures. 

1  It  weighed  about  twenty-three  hundred-weight;    the    ornamen- 

212  Letters  of  Cortes 

for  it  had  to  be  done  twice.  It  was  very  costly,  as, 
besides  the  value  of  the  metal,  which  amounted  to  twenty- 
four  thousand  pesos  of  gold,  the  mark  of  silver  being 
at  five  dollars  of  gold,  the  cost  of  founding,  engraving, 
and  carriage  to  the  port,  came  to  more  than  three 
thousand  pesos  more.  I  set  myself  to  make  it  so  rich 
and  so  noteworthy  and  fit  to  go  before  such  a  High  and 
Most  Excellent  Prince,  that  I  beg  of  Your  Majesty  to 
receive  my  small  gift  measuring  its  value  by  my  devotion 
and  disposition  to  send  greater  if  I  possibly  could;  for 
though  I  am  indebted,  as  I  heretofore  stated  to  Your 
Highness,  I  willingly  went  deeper  into  debt,  desiring 
that  Your  Majesty  might  know  my  zeal,  for  I  have  been 
made  so  unhappy  by  the  many  contradictions  I  have  suf- 
fered before  Your  Highness  that  I  have  never  heretofore 
had  opportunity  to  manifest  this  desire. 

I  likewise  send  Your  Sacred  Majesty  sixty  thousand 
pesos  of  gold,  belonging  to  Your  Royal  revenues  as  Your 
Highness  will  see  by  the  account  which  the  officers  and 
myself  send  respecting  it,  and  we  venture  to  send  this 
sum  together  because  we  imagine  that  Your  Majesty 
must  need  it  on  account  of  the  wars  and  other  things, 
and  also  that  Your  Majesty  need  not  regret  the  past  loss. 
Hereafter,  every  time  occasion  offers,  I  shall  send  to  Your 
Majesty  the  most  of  what  I  obtain,  and  Your  Sacred 
Majesty  may  believe,  as  things  are  being  developed,  that 
these  kingdoms  and  dominions  of  Your  Highness  will 
provide  surer  revenues,  with  less  cost  than  any  of  your 
kingdoms  and  dominions  in  Europe;  that  is,  if  no  other 
such  embarrassments  present  themselves  as  have  hereto- 

tation  executed  by  the  best  native  silversmiths  displayed  a  phcenix 
underneath  which  was  the  following  inscription : 

Aquesta  nacid  sin  par, 

Yo  en  serviros  sin  segundo: 

Vos  sin  igual  en  el  mundo. 
Cavo  says  this  legend  provoked  much  invidious  comment  at  the 
Spanish   Court. 

Fourth  Letter  213 

fore  arisen.  I  say  this  because,  I  learned  from  Gonzalo  de 
Salazar,  factor  to  Your  Highness,  who  arrived  two  days 
since,  at  the  port  of  San  Juan  in  New  Spain  that  he  was 
informed  in  the  island  of  Cuba,  where  he  stopped,  that 
Diego  Velasquez,  lieutenant  of  the  admiral  there,  had 
had  an  understanding  with  Cristobal  de  Olid,  whom  I 
had  sent  to  Hibueras,  to  revolt  against  me  in  his  favour. 
This  proceeding  seemed  so  contrary  to  Your  Majesty's 
service  that  I  am  unable  to  believe  it;  nevertheless,  on 
the  other  hand,  knowing  that  the  said  Diego  Velasquez 
has  always  sought  to  work  me  mischief  and  to  disturb 
me  in  every  possible  way,  and  even  to  prevent  people  from 
coming  to  these  parts,  I  do  believe  it.  In  that  island 
he  imprisons  those  who  go  there  from  here,  and  oppresses 
them,  taking  away  their  goods,  and  afterwards  bringing 
judicial  proceedings  against  them  so  that  they,  to  obtain 
their  freedom  and  escape  him,  do  and  say  anything  he 
pleases.  I  shall  inform  myself  of  the  truth,  and,  if  I 
find  it  to  be  thus,  I  think  to  send  to  arrest  Diego  Velasquez 
and  deliver  him  to  Your  Majesty;  because  by  cutting 
the  root  of  these  evils — which  this  man  is — all  the 
branches  will  decay,  and  I  shall  be  able  to  make  effectual 
the  services  I  have  begun  and  those  which  I  hope  to 

Each  time  I  have  written  Your  Sacred  Majesty,  I  have 
told  Your  Highness  of  the  preparation  made  for  the 
conversion  to  our  holy  religion  of  the  Indians  plans  t0 
of  these  parts,  and  I  have  since  besought  Your  Convert 
Caesarian  Majesty  to  provide  religious  persons  the  Indians 
of  good  life  and  example;  but  so  far  very  few  or  almost 
none  have  come.  It  is  positive  they  would  obtain  great 
fruit,  and  I  have  again  to  recall  it  to  Your  Highness's 
memory,  beseeching  you  to  order  some  provision  in  this 
with  all  possible  haste,  because  God,  our  Lord,  will  be 
much  pleased,  and  Your  Majesty's  desire  as  a  Catholic  in 
this  matter  will  be  gratified.     The  procurators  Antonio 

214  Letters  of  Cortes 

Quinones  and  Alonzo  de  Avila,  counsellors  of  the  towns 
of  New  Spain,  and  myself,  begged  Your  Majesty  to  send 
us  bishops  and  other  prelates  to  administer  the  offices 
and  divine  cult,  for  it  then  appeared  to  us  that  this  was 
necessary,  but,  examining  the  matter  more  fully,  it  now 
seems  to  me  Your  Sacred  Majesty  should  order  other 
measures  to  be  provided  for  the  more  speedy  conversion 
of  the  natives,  and  that  they  may  be  better  instructed  in 
the  mysteries  of  our  holy  faith.  This  would  be  as  follows : 
Your  Majesty  should  order  many  religious  men  to  come 
to  these  parts,  as  I  have  already  said,  who  would  be 
zealous  for  the  conversion  of  infidels;  houses  and  mon- 
asteries would  be  provided  for  them  in  the  provinces 
which  we  would  indicate,  and  a  tithe  of  one  tenth 
may  be  levied  for  their  support;  the  surplus  would  be 
assigned  for  the  churches  and  their  furnishings  in  the 
towns  where  Spaniards  live,  and  to  their  clergy.  The 
tithes  would  be  collected  by  Your  Majesty's  officials 
who  would  keep  account  of  them  and  provide  all  such 
monasteries  and  churches  with  necessaries;  the  amount 
will  be  enough  and  more  than  enough  so  that  Your 
Majesty  may  receive  the  surplus.  Let  Your  Highness 
beseech  His  Holiness  to  concede  Your  Majesty  the  tithes 
in  these  parts  for  this  purpose,  making  him  understand  the 
service  rendered  to  God,  our  Lord;  and  this  can  only  be 
obtained  in  this  way,  because,  if  we  have  the  bishops  and 
other  prelates,  they  will  follow  the  customs,  which  as 
a  punishment  for  our  sins  exist  to-day,  of  disposing  of 
the  gifts  of  the  Church  and  wasting  them  in  pomps  and 
other  vices,  leaving   family  estates  for  their    children. l 

1  Archbishop  Lorenzana  agrees  with  other  authorities  that  there 
were  bishops  and  canons  in  Spain  who  led  far  from  exemplary  lives, 
but  says  this  state  of  things  was  fortunately  brought  to  a  close  by 
the  disciplinary  enactments  of  the  Council  of  Trent.  Cortes  also  ob- 
jected to  doctors,  and  more  especially  to  lawyers;  he  earnestly  begged 
the  Emperor  to  forbid  members  of  these  learned  professions  to  come 
to  Mexico,  saying  that  the  doctors  would  only  bring  new  diseases 

Fourth  Letter  215 

A  still  worse  evil  might  happen,  for  the  natives  of 
these  parts  had,  in  their  times,  those  who  conducted 
their  rites  and  ceremonies  who  were  so  strict  not  only  in 
composure  and  honesty,  but  also  in  chastity,  that  if  one 
was  discovered  violating  his  vows  he  was  punished  with 
death;  if  they  now  saw  the  servants  of  God's  Church  in 
the  power  of  Mammon,  practising  vanities,  and  learned 
that  they  were  ministers  of  God,  and  beheld  them  falling 
into  vice,  as  is  the  case  in  our  times  in  Spain,  it  would 
bring  our  Faith  into  contempt  and  the  natives  would 
hold  it  as  a  mockery;  and  this  would  do  such  mischief 
that  I  do  not  believe  any  amount  of  preaching  would  be 
of  any  avail.  As  this  is  of  such  importance,  and  the 
principal  object  of  Your  Majesty  is,  and  should  be,  the 
conversion  of  these  people,  those  who  reside  here  in  Your 
Royal  name  should  behave  as  becomes  Christians.  I 
have  wished  to  give  this  information  and  my  opinion 
which  I  pray  Your  Highness  to  accept  as  coming  from 
your  subject  and  vassal,  who  has  worked  with  all  his  vital 
powers,  and  will  ever  strive  to  extend  Your  Majesty's 
kingdoms  and  dominions  in  these  parts  and  to  publish 
Your  Royal  fame  and  great  power  among  these  people: 
and  who  likewise  desires  and  will  strive  that  Your 
Highness  may  sow  amongst  them  our  Holy  Faith  merit- 
ing thereby  the  eternal  reward  to  everlasting  life.  As 
the  giving  of  holy  orders,  the  consecration  of  churches, 
ornaments,  oils  and  chrism,  and  other  functions  require 
a  bishop,  and,  we  not  having  any,  it  would  be  difficult 
to  seek  them  elsewhere,  Your  Majesty  should  likewise 
beseech  His  Holiness  to  grant  such  powers  to  two  prin- 
cipal persons  amongst  the  religious  men  coming  here, 
who  might  be  as  special  delegates,  one  from  the  Order  of 

with  them,  while  failing  to  cure  the  old  ones,  and  the  lawyers  would 
flourish  by  augmenting  the  contentions  and  dissensions,  which,  though 
already  too  frequent,  the  colonists  managed  to  settle  amicably  amongst 

216  Letters  of  Cortes 

St.  Francis,  and  the  other  from  the  Order  of  St.  Dominic. 
They  should  bring  the  most  extensive  powers  Your 
Majesty  can  obtain,  because  these  countries  are  so 
distant  from  the  Roman  Church,  and  the  Christians  who 
actually  live  here  and  will  hereafter  reside  here  are  so 
far  from  religious  discipline  and,  as  human  beings,  sub- 
ject to  sin,  that  His  Holiness  should  grant  to  these  re- 
ligious men  very  ample  powers  to  be  handed  down  by 
persons  who  always  reside  here,  be  it  either  to  one  General 
or  to  a  Provincial  of  each  Order  in  this  country. * 

The  tithes  farmed  in  these  countries  have  been  farmed  in 
some  of  the  towns,  and  in  others  they  are  offered  by  public 
crier;  they  have  been  farmed  since  the  year  1523  until 
now,  for  before  then  it  did  not  seem  to  me  that  they 
should  be  levied,  as  they  were  insignificant  in  themselves, 
and  because  at  that  time  those  who  had  land  spent  more 
in  keeping  themselves  during  the  war  than  their  profits 
amounted  to.  Whatever  else  Your  Majesty  may  com- 
mand for  your  services  will  be  done. 

The  tithes  of  this  city  for  the  year  1523  and  1524  were 
adjudged  to  the  highest  bidder  for  five  thousand  five 
hundred  and  fifty  pesos  of  gold,  and  those  of  the  towns 
of  Medellin  and  Vera  Cruz  are  estimated  at  one  thousand 
pesos  of  gold.  For  the  present  year  they  are  not  yet 
adjudged,  and  I  believe  they  will  go  still  higher;  I  do 
not  know  how  much  the  other  towns  brought,  as  they 
are  distant  and  I  have  as  yet  no  information.  This  money 
will  be  used  to  build  churches,  pay  priests  and  sacris- 
tans, providing  the  ornaments  and  other  necessary  things 
for  their  upkeep.  The  different  accounts  will  be  sub- 
mitted  to  the  treasurer  and  the  accountant   of  Your 

1  Charles  V.  acted  on  this  suggestion,  and  the  Pope,  at  his  in- 
stance, gave  to  Padre  Toribio  de  Benevente  (Motolinia)  power  to  give 
confirmation,  but  not  to  consecrate  holy  oils.  The  first  superior 
of  Franciscans  was  Friar  Martin  de  Valencia,  and  of  the  Dominicans, 
Friar  Vetanzos,  who  built  the  first  convent  near  Texcoco,  at  a  place 
called  Tepetlaxtoc  (Lorenzana,  Relation  Quarta,  note). 

Fourth  Letter  217 

Majesty,  for  everything  will  be  paid  to  the  treasurer  and 
nothing  expended  without  an  order  from  the  accountant 
or  myself. 

I  have  likewise,  most  Catholic  Lord,  been  informed  by 
ships  from  the  island  that  Your  Majesty's  judges  and 
officials  living  in  the  island  of  Hispaniola  have  Trade 

ordered  a  prohibition  to  be  published  by  the  Relations 
public  crier  against  exporting,  under  pain  of  death,  any 
mares  or  other  breeding  animals  to  New  Spain ;  and  they 
have  done  this  with  the  intention  of  forcing  us  always  to 
buy  beasts  and  cattle  from  them  which  they  sell  at  excessive 
prices.  This  they  should  not  do,  and  the  mischief  done  to 
Your  Majesty  is  notorious,  for  the  peopling  and  pacification 
of  this  country  are  retarded ;  they  know  our  need  of  horses, 
and  have  forbidden  their  exportation  out  of  excessive  love 
of  gain,  for  it  is  clear  that  no  need  of  their  port  has  pro- 
voked this  measure.  I  beg  Your  Majesty  that  it  be  re- 
voked, by  sending  an  injunction  under  Your  Royal  hand 
that  everyone  may  export  mares  without  being  exposed 
to  any  penalty,  for,  besides  that  they  would  not  miss 
the  horses,  Your  Majesty  has  the  greatest  interest  that 
we  should  have  all  we  require,  as  we  cannot  otherwise 
continue  our  conquest,  nor  preserve  what  we  have  already 
conquered ;  moreover,  I  would  pay  very  liberally  for  these 
mares.  In  any  case,  I  could  revenge  myself  in  such  a 
manner  that  they  would  gladly  revoke  their  mandates 
and  edicts,  for,  by  retaliating  and  prohibiting  all  products 
of  these  islands  from  entering  this  country,  save  only  what 
they  had  forbidden,  they  would  gladly  allow  the  one  in 
order  to  be  allowed  the  other.1  Their  only  resource  is 
in  trading  with  this  country,  and,  heretofore,  a  thousand 
pesos  of  gold  could  not  be  found  amongst  all  the  house- 
holders of  the  island,  while  now  they  have  more  than  they 
ever  had  at  any  time.  Rather  than  give  occasion  to  evil 
speakers  and  maligners,  I  have  dissembled  until  I  could 

1  Pan-American  reciprocity  in  embryo. 

218  Letters  of  Cortes 

make  it  known  to  Your  Majesty,  so  that  Your  Highness 
might  order  whatever  seems  required  for  Your  Royal 

I  have  also  explained  to  Your  Caesarian  Majesty  the 
need  for  plants  of  all  kinds ;  for  every  species  of  agriculture 
may  flourish  here;  but  nothing  has  been  so  far  provided, 
and  I  again  pray  Your  Majesty  to  order  a  provision  from 
the  Casa  de  la  Contratacion  at  Seville,  so  that  no  ship 
be  allowed  to  sail  without  bringing  a  certain  number  of 
plants  which  would  favour  the  population  and  prosperity 
of  the  country. 

I  seek  by  every  possible  means  to  increase  the  popula- 
tion of  these  countries,  that  the  Spanish  settlers  and 
natives  of  them  should  preserve  themselves  and  propo- 
gate,  and  that  our  Holy  Faith  be  built  up  in  every  respect. 
As  Your  Majesty  has  done  me  the  favour  to  charge  me 
with  its  government,  and  God,  our  Lord,  has  pleased  to 
make  me  the  medium  of  bringing  it  under  the  imperial 
yoke  of  Your  Highness,  therefore  I  order  certain 
ordinances  to  be  published,  of  which  I  send  a  copy  to 
Your  Majesty,  and  hence  need  not  explain,  except  to  say 
that  in  my  judgment,  it  is  necessary  that  these  ordin- 
ances should    be    obeyed.1      The    Spaniards    here    are 

1  Some  of  the  enactments  of  Cortes  were  as  strict  as  any  Puritan 
could  prescribe.  Married  colonists  were  obliged  to  bring  their  wives 
to  their  plantations  within  eighteen  months,  under  pain  of  forfeiting 
their  grant:  those  who  were  unmarried  were  given  the  same  period 
within  which  to  ,find  wives  (Gomara,  Hist.  Mex.  Ordenanzas  Mun- 
icipales  apud  Pacheco  and  Cardenas) . 

Sumptuary  laws  regulated  the  wearing  of  velvets,  silks,  and  brocades, 
or  their  use  for  saddles,  shoes,  and  sword-belts,  as  well  as  jewels,  gold 
ornaments,  and  embroideries  (Herrera,  Hist.  General,  Dec,  III  lib.  5  ; 
Puya,  Cedulario). 

Sunday  observance  was  very  rigid,  and  all  shops  were  closed;  trades 
of  every  kind  were  suspended  during  the  hours  of  religious  services, 
while  attendance  at  mass  was  compulsory  on  Sundays  and  great  feast 
days  (Pacheco  and  Cardenas).  The  incident  of  Cortes  submitting 
to  a  public  whipping  for  failing  to  attend,  is  related  in  the  Biographical 

Fourth  Letter  2ig 

not  satisfied  with  some  of  them,  especially  those  which 
require  them  to  settle  in  the  country,  for  all,  or  most  of 
them,  expected  to  conduct  themselves  here  as  they  have 
done  in  the  islands ;  where  their  conduct  consisted  in  con- 
suming the  country's  substance,  destroying,  and  afterwards 
abandoning  it.  But,  as  it  seems  to  me,  we  who  have  had 
experience  in  the  past,  would  be  blamable,  did  we  not  pro- 
vide a  remedy  for  the  present  and  the  future,  correcting 
notorious  abuses  which  caused  ills  on  the  said  islands; 
especially  as  this  country  being,  as  I  have  already  many 
times  written  to  Your  Majesty,  of  such  size  and  wealth, 
where  our  Lord  may  be  well  served,  and  the  royal  revenues 
of  Your  Majesty  increased.  I,  therefore,  beseech  Your 
Majesty  to  have  the  ordinances  examined,  and  to  send 
me  an  order  respecting  what  Your  Highness  may  approve, 
directing  me  what  to  do,  not  only  concerning  the  com- 
pliance with  the  said  ordinances,  but  also  in  how  far 
Your  Majesty  desires  their  execution.  I  shall  always 
be  careful  to  add  whatever  circumstances  may  seem  to 
me  to  require,  for  the  country  is  so  large,  the  climate  so 
diverse,  and  there  are  so  many  new  discoveries,  that 
it  is  necessary  to  modify  plans  and  counsels  according 
to  new  events,  so  that  if  in  anything  I  had  said,  or 
shall  hereafter  say  to  Your  Majesty,  there  seems  to  be 
something  contradictory  to  what  I  had  said  before, 
Your  Excellency  may  believe  that  the  new  case  obliges 
me  to  give  a  new  opinion. 

Most  invincible  Caesar,   may  God,   our  Lord,   guide, 

Gambling  was  the  hardest  vice  to  control,  and  Cortes's  enemies  were 
not  slow  to  pick  upon  his  own  fondness  for  cards  and  dice,  alleging 
that  he  privately  practised  and  encouraged  what  he  publicly 

Unfortunately  the  Spaniards  introduced  the  most  reprehensible 
of  all  "sports," — if  indeed  such  it  can  be  honestly  called, — the  bull- 
fight as  early  as  1526   (Vetancourt,  Teatro  Mexicano). 

Dancing  was  not  discouraged,  and  religious  festivals  were  celebrated 
with  gorgeous  processions,  so  life  was  not  quite  so  colourless  as  it  was 
afterwards  made  in  the  New  England  colonies. 

220  Letters  of  Cortes 

prosper,  and  preserve  the  person  of  Your  Majesty,  and 
grant  extension  of  greater  kingdoms  and  lordships  for 
very  lengthy  times  in  His  Holy  Service,  and  everything 
else  which  Your  Highness  may  desire. 

From  the  great  City  of  Temixtitan  in  this  New  Spain 
on  15  October,  1524. 

Your  Sacred  Majesty's  very  humble  subject  and  loyal 
vassal  who  kisses  the  Royal  feet  of  Your  Majesty. 

Ferdinand  Cortes. 





The  system  of  repartimientos  and  encomiendas  of  the  Indians  was 
begun  in  the  Islands  in  the  time  of  Columbus,  and  was,  at  the  outset, 
sanctioned  by  the  Catholic  Sovereigns,  though  the  first  authorisation, 
given  in  1497,  grants  repartimientos  of  lands  but  says  nothing  about 
Indians.  It  was  represented  to  be  the  best  means  for  civilising  and 
Christianising  the  natives;  but  this  sanction  was  afterwards  revoked 
by  Isabella  the  Catholic,  who,  with  a  fuller  knowledge  of  the  real 
conditions  and  of  the  abuses  which  quickly  sprang  up,  issued  severe 
edicts  against  them. 

The  repartimiento,  according  to  Leon,  signified  the  first  partition 
or  allotment  of  Indians  made  to  the  colonists,  and  the  encomienda 
was  the  second  grant,  made  after  the  death  of  the  first  holder  of  the 
right.  The  repartimiento  in  the  Islands  was  sometimes  of  only  a 
week's  duration,  and  hence  had  a  temporary  character,  whereas  the 
encomienda  was  a  permanent  concession  of  rights  over  certain  Indians 
which  was  as  much  a  property  right  as  a  grant  of  land  and  became 
hereditary  in  the  family  holding  it. 

The  home  government  enacted  many  measures  for  regulating  the 
system,  and  for  the  protection  of  the  Indians,  but  distance  and  other 
circumstances  made  it  easy  to  evade  these  provisions,  and  shocking 
abuses  and  cruelties,  which  rapidly  depopulated  the  islands,  became 
common.  It  was  this  deplorable  state  of  things  which  first  aroused 
the  indignation  of  the  Dominican  monk,  Las  Casas,  afterwards  Bishop 
of  Chiapa  and  started  him  upon  the  zealous  crusade  in  favour  of  the 
rights  of  the  natives;  which  procured  him  the  glorious  title  of  "  Pro. 
tector-General  of  the  Indians." 

The  defenders  of  this  system  of  enforced  serfdom  argued  that  the 
Indians  were  by  nature  lazy,  and,  if  left  free,  would  never  work;  that 
the  only  hope  of  converting  them  to  Christianity  was  to  keep  them 
in  touch  with  Christians;  and  also  that  the  climate  was  such,  that  white 
labour  could  not  be  employed,  even  if  there  were  plenty  of  workmen, 
which  there  were  not.  It  was  therefore  urged  that  without  com- 
pulsion there  would  be  no  native  labour  and  without  native  labour 
there  would  be  no  revenue. 

Practically  the  only  reward  given  to  the  soldiers  of  Cortes  after 
the  conquest  of  Mexico  was  to  assign  to  each  one  a  repartimiento  or 


224  Letters  of  Cortes 

encomienda  of  Indians,  with  whom  to  work  the  lands  granted  them. 
Cortes  seems  to  have  been  sincerely  opposed  to  the  system  from  the 
outset,  and  to  have  yielded  to  the  general  clamour,  only  after  having 
presented  other  projects  which  were  refused;  nor  does  he  seem  to  have 
ever  reconciled  his  conscience  to  it,  although,  once  his  sanction  had 
been  given,  he  defended  it  on  the  usual  grounds  of  its  expediency,  even 
going  so  far  as  to  withhold  the  publication  of  a  royal  decree  which 
the  friars  had  obtained  from  the  Emperor,  revoking  all  repartimientos 
and  encomiendas  already  conceded,  and  forbidding  new  ones  under 
severest  penalties  in  the  future.  He  defended  this  action  by  writing 
to  the  Emperor  that  to  execute  the  decree  would  be  to  throw  the 
Indians  back  into  barbarism,  ruin  the  colony,  and  drive  the  colonists 
out  of  the  country. 

The  bishops  and  friars  in  Mexico  energetically  repudiated  this  idea, 
and  in  writing  to  the  Emperor,  in  1528,  during  the  governorship 
of  Nuno  de  Guzman,  who  was  striving  to  obtain  the  royal  approval 
of  encomiendas,  the  Franciscans  of  Mexico  expressed  themselves  as 
follows:  "The  proposal  of  the  Governor  and  his  auditors,  suggested 
to  them  by  the  holders  of  encomiendas  in  New  Spain,  that  the  natives 
should  be  so  held  for  their  own  welfare,  their  conversion  to  the  faith, 
and  their  obedience  to  the  King,  is  nothing  else  but  the  using  of  re- 
ligion as  a  pretext  to  enable  them  to  continue  their  tyranny  as 
heretofore.  When  have  these  impious  men  ever  had  a  thought  of 
converting  these  people?  or  of  treating  them  humanely?  We  have 
been  witnesses  of  the  methods  of  these  holders  of  encomiendas  for  the 
last  five  years,  and  we  have  seen  that  their  vexatious  torments  seem 
to  have  for  their  object  the  destruction  of  the  Indians,  and  from  these 
we  may  infer  how  much  more  cruel  they  were  in  the  other  three 
years  after  the  conquest.  By  a  special  providence  of  God  they  have 
not  succeeded,  even  with  all  the  means  they  have  used,  in  destroying 
the  Mexicans.  To  wish  to  make  slaves  of  the  natives  of  the  New 
World  in  order  to  subject  them  to  the  Faith  and  the  King's  obedience, 
is  undoubtedly  iniquitous,  and  God  has  forbidden  men  all  abomina- 
tions, even  though  the  greatest  good  should  result  from  them.  Sacri- 
fice is  never  acceptable  if  offered  with  unclean  hands.  It  were  a 
lesser  evil  if  not  a  single  inhabitant  of  the  New  World  were  ever 
converted  to  our  Holy  Faith,  and  that  the  King's  sovereignty  should 
be  lost  forever,  than  that  these  people  should  be  brought  to  the  one 
or  the  other  by  slavery"  (Fr.  Andres  Calvo,  Apud  Bustamante). 

The  Empress,  when  she  was  regent,  was  moved  to  tears  by  one  such 
relation  as  this;  royal  decrees  without  number  were  repeatedly  issued, 
not  merely  to  correct  the  abuses,  but  to  suppress  the  system  itself; 
but  by  intrigue  and  every  sort  of  subterfuge,  rapacious  conquerors 
and  greedy  colonists  would  wrench  concessions  from  the  unwilling 
sovereigns  which,  as  soon  as  the  real  state  of  things  became  known, 
would  be  promptly  revoked.  Open  violation  of  the  law  was  common, 
and  winked  at  by  the  local  authorities,  only  the  bishops  and  friars 

Appendix.     Fourth  Letter  225 

being  left  to  protect  against  such  doings.  They  were  the  abolitionists 
of  those  times,  and  they  had  recourse  to  the  severest  spiritual  penalties, 
refusing  the  sacraments,  and  launching  excommunications  on  the 
notoriously  cruel  among  the  slave-holding  colonists.  Yielding  to  the 
arguments  so  persistently  advanced,  temporising  measures  were 
adopted ;  the  system  being  provisionally  tolerated  while  every  possible 
provision  for  mitigating  its  evils  was  prescribed.  Some  of  these  were 
as  follows :  the  holder  of  an  encomienda  was  bound  to  pledge  himself 
to  an  eight  years'  residence  on  his  estate;  no  women  or  boys  under 
twelve  years  were  to  do  plantation  work;  Indian  labourers  could  not 
be  let  out  to  others,  nor  be  employed  for  regulating  waterways,  excavat- 
ing canals,  nor  for  building  any  house  other  than  that  of  the  holder  of 
the  encomienda ;  they  were  not  to  be  taken  'away  from  their  native  pro- 
vince, and  squads  of  labourerscould  be  summoned  for  a  period  of  twenty 
days  at  a  time  only,  at  the  ratio  of  ten  men  out  of  every  hundred  in  a 
village,  and  this  not  at  their  own  harvest  time;  since  mules,  horses, 
and  oxen  had  been  imported,  the  Indians  were  not  to  be  used  as  beasts 
of  burden,  as  they  were  in  the  beginning;  the  villages  were  to  be  within 
a  given  distance  of  the  plantations ;  the  hours  of  work  were  from  sun- 
rise until  one  hour  before  sunset,  with  a  rest  at  midday,  and  the  pro- 
prietor must  feed  them  well,  pay  them  at  least  one  castellano  per  year,, 
clothe  them,  and  provide  for  the  education  of  the  sons  of  chiefs  in  the- 
friar's  school;  moreover  a  priest  was  to  be  in  charge  of  every  two 
thousand  Indians.  Had  these,  and  the  many  other  safeguards  pro- 
vided, been  strictly  observed  by  the  Spaniards,  the  state  of  the  Indians 
would  not  have  been  a  particularly  bad  one. 

The  Indians  thus  divided  in  encomiendas  were  not,  strictly  speaking, 
slaves,  though  their  labour  was  enforced.  The  slaves  were  a  class 
apart,  and  consisted  of  those  who  had  been  held  in  slavery  by  the 
Mexicans  before  the  arrival  of  Cortes,  and  of  such  as  had  afterwards 
been  condemned  to  slavery  for  rebellion. 

Mention  is  several  times  made  in  the  Letters  of  whole  villages  being 
sold  or  divided  as  a  punishment  for  insurrection.  How  easy  it  was 
for  the  unscrupulous  to  provoke  quarrels  and  broils,  readily  magnified 
into  "rebellions, "  or  to  trump  up  a  charge  on  which  natives  might  be 
enslaved,  may  be  imagined.  All  such  were  branded,  and  as  encomi- 
enda Indians  could  not  be  sent  to  the  mines  or  to  work  at  a  distance; 
the  slaves  were  used  for  these  hard  purposes.  They  were  procured  in 
immense  numbers  from  Mexican  chiefs  either  by  purchase — sometimes 
for  nominal  sums — and  sometimes  in  payment  of  debts,  or  to  discharge 
obligations,  and  this  opened  the  way  to  countless  abuses,  as  the 
caciques  not  infrequently  delivered  free  men  into  Spanish  slavery, 
and,  once  branded,  their  status  was  fixed  forever.  The  trade  in  human 
flesh  flourished,  and  thousands  were  shipped  to  the  islands  where  the 
natives  were  rapidly  being  exterminated,  and  the  treatment  of  these 
poor  creatures  was  so  inhuman  that  many  died  during  the  voyage, 
and  others  in  despair  threw  themselves  overboard  and  were  drowned. 

226  Letters  of  Cortes 

It  is  a  question,  however,  whether  this  treatment  was  worse  than 
they  had  suffered  from  their  Mexican  owners.  Cortes  affirms  that 
it  was  not,  and  that  the  threat  they  most  feared  was  to  be  sold  back 
to  the  Aztecs.  On  the  other  hand,  Motolinia  describes  the  Spanish 
system  as  the  "sixth  plague."  I  have  elsewhere  read  that  the  Aztec 
system  was  a  purely  patriarchal  one,  and  that  such  slaves  as  were  not 
destined  for  human  sacrifices  had  everything  but  their  freedom;  it 
being  also  against  the  law  to  sell  them,  while  their  children  were  all 
born  free,  and  they  could  hold  property  of  their  own.  It  may  indeed 
be  that  the  Aztec  law  provided  such  humane  protections,  but  then 
we  have  seen  that  the  Spanish  laws  were  also  numerous  and  bene- 
ficient,  so  that  the  actual  fate  of  the  slave  cannot  be  gauged  by  the 
spirit  of  the  laws,  but  by  the  observance  of  them. 

The  Tlascalans  were  exempt  from  the  prevailing  system,  in  recog- 
nition of  their  services  during  the  conquest,  and,  in  1537,  they  them- 
selves suppressed  slavery  and  serfage  of  every  sort  within  their  prov- 
ince, a  measure  which  was  approved  by  the  Viceroy. 

The  system  of  encomiendas  was  finally  abolished  in  Mexico  under 
Charles  III. 




Sacred  Catholic  Ccesarian  Majesty: 

On  the  23  October  of  the  past  year,  1525,  I  de- 
spatched a  ship  to  the  Island  Espanola,  from  the  town 
of  Trujillo,  which  is  a  port  on  the  Cape  of  Honduras,1  on 
board  which  was  a  servant  of  mine  whom  I  ordered  to 
cross  over  to  Spain.  I  wrote  to  Your  Majesty  something 
of  what  had  happened,  at  the  gulf  called  Hibueras,  be- 
tween the  two  captains 2  I  had  sent  there,  and  another 
captain  called  Gil  Gonzalez  who  went  there  afterwards. 
As  I  was  unable,  when  the  vessel  and  messenger  departed, 
to  give  Your  Majesty  any  account  of  my  journey  and 
adventures,  from  the  time  I  left  this  great  city  of  Temix- 
titan,  until  I  met  with  the  people  in  those  distant  parts, 
it  seemed  to  me  important  that  Your  Highness  should 
be  informed  of  my  doings,  if  only  for  the  sake  of  not  de- 
parting from  my  custom,  which  is  to  withhold  nothing, 
wherein  I  am  concerned,  from  the  knowledge  of  Your 
Majesty.  I  shall,  therefore,  relate  events  as  best  I  can; 
for  to  describe  them  as  they  occurred  is  more  than  I  could 
undertake  to  do,  and,  moreover,  my  narrative  might 
perhaps  be  incomprehensible  to  those  for  whom  it  is 

1  First  discovered  by  Columbus  in  1502,  and  named  by  him  Cape 
Caximos,  after  some  fruit  trees,  called  thus  by  the  natives;  the  name 
of  the  gulf  is  spelled  in  different  ways;  Hibueras,  which  is  perhaps  the 
most  usual,  means  "pumpkins"  in  the  provincial  dialect,  and  these 
are  plentiful  there  about.  The  name  Honduras  meaning  difficulties 
is  Spanish. 

2  Cristobal  de  Olid  and  Francisco  de  Las  Casas;  as  explained  in  the 
Fourth  Letter. 


230  Letters  of  Cortes 

destined.  I  will  relate  the  principal  and  most  important 
occurrences  of  the  said  journey,  omitting  a  great  many 
as  accessory,  though  each  would  furnish  material  for 
ample  writing. 

Having  given  my  orders  respecting  that  affair  of 
Cortes  Cristobal  de  Olid,  as  I  related  to  Your  Majesty, 
Leaves  it  seemed  to  me  I  had  been  a  long  time  inactive, 
Mexico  an(j  without  undertaking  anything  in  Your 
Majesty's  service;  and,  although  my  arm  was  not 
yet  healed  of  its  wound,  I  nevertheless  determined 
to  undertake  something.  I  left  this  great  city  of 
Temixtitan  on  the  12  October  of  1524  last,  accom- 
panied by  some  horsemen  and  foot  soldiers,  chosen  among 
my  old  retainers  and  servants,  and  by  some  friends 
and  relatives  of  mine,  amongst  whom  were  Gonzalo  de 
Salazar,  and  Peralmindez  Chirino, l  the  former  a  factor, 
and  the  latter  an  inspector,  for  Your  Majesty;  and  I  also 
took  with  me  some  noble  persons  of  the  natives,  and  I 
left  the  administration  of  justice  and  government  to  the 

1  Gonzalo  de  Salazar,  Pero  Armildez  Chirino,  Alonso  de  Estrada,  and 
Rodrigo  de  Albornoz,  were  sent  as  revenue  officers  to  Mexico  in  1524, 
and  to  establish  a  court  of  accounts.  Estrada  was  treasurer,  Albornoz 
was  accountant,  Salazar  factor,  and  Chirino  inspector.  Their  expecta- 
tions of  finding  immense  treasures  ready  at  hand  were  disappointed, 
and  the  only  explanation  which  seemed  to  them  adequate  was  that 
Cortes  had  concealed  or  made  way  with  them.  In  their  joint  de- 
spatch to  the  Emperor,  they  accused  him  of  possessing  great  riches, 
and  of  having  hidden  the  treasure  of  Montezuma  instead  of  accounting 
for  it  to  the  crown.  They  described  Cortes  as  tyrannical,  disloyal, 
and  engaged  in  plotting  to  establish  his  authority  independently  in 
the  country.  This  despatch  was  closely  followed  by  two  other  letters, 
one  signed  by  all  of  them,  and  the  other  by  Salazar  alone.  Salazar 
stated  that  Cortes  had  collected  three  hundred  and  four  million  cas- 
tellanos,  without  counting  Montezuma's  treasure,  which  was  buried 
in  various  secret  places ;  that  he  had  retained  for  himself  some  thirty- 
seven  to  forty  provinces,  some  of  them  as  large  as  all  Andalusia;  that 
he  was  commonly  believed  to  have  poisoned  Francisco  de  Garay;  and 
that  the  ships  he  pretended  were  preparing  for  the  expedition  to  the 
Spice  Islands  were  really  for  carrying  his  treasure  and  himself  in 
safety  to  France. 

Fifth  Letter  231 

treasurer  and  accountant  of  Your  Highness,  and  to  the 
licenciate  Alonzo  de  Zuarzo.  I  provided  this  city  with 
sufficient  artillery,  ammunition,  and  a  garrison,  and  also 
placed  artillery  at  the  dockyard,  ordering  the  brigantines 
to  be  made  ready,  and  a  military  governor  to  have  charge 
of  any  operations  necessary  for  the  defence  of  the  city. 
All  this  being  settled  I  left  this  city  of  Temixtitan  with 
the  said  design,  and,  while  engaged  at  Espiritu  Santo, 
which  is  a  town  in  the  province  of  Coazacoalco,  one 
hundred  and  ten  leagues  from  this  city,  in  settling  the 
internal  affairs  of  the  community,  I  sent  messengers  to 
Tabasco  and  Xicalango  to  inform  the  chiefs  of  these  pro- 
vinces of  my  intended  journey,  ordering  them  to  meet  me 
or  to  send  persons  to  whom  I  might  give  my  instructions, 
adding  that  their  deputies  should  be  honourable  men  of 
good  understanding,  who  would  repeat  faithfully  to  them 
the  sense  of  my  instructions.  They  did  exactly  as  I 
directed,  and  received  my  messengers  with  due  honour, 
sending  me  seven  or  eight  responsible  men  with  full 
authority,  as  is  their  habit  on  such  occasions. 

After  enquiring  of  them  respecting  things  I  wished  to 
know  about  the  country,  they  told  me  that  on  the  sea- 
coast,  beyond  the  country  called  Yucatan,  towards  the 
Bay  of  Asumption, !  there  were  some  Spaniards  who  mo- 
lested them;  for,  besides  burning  their  villages  and  slaying 
their  people,  in  consequence  of  which  many  had  fled  to 
the  forests,  they  had  totally  destroyed  the  trade  which 
formerly  flourished  on  that  coast.  Some  who  had  been 
in  those  parts  described  to  me  most  of  the  villages  on  the 
coast  as  far  as  the  residence  of  Pedrarias  de  Avila,2  Your 

1  A  misspelling  for  Ascencion,  though  Gonzalo  de  Avila's  people 
were  not  there  but  some  sixty  leagues  down  the  coast. 

2  Pedrarius  de  Avila  was  from  Segovia,  and  had  distinguished 
himself  in  the  Moorish  wars,  both  in  Spain  and  Africa;  he  was  sent, 
in  1 5 13,  to  supersede  Balboa  as  Governor  of  the  colony  on  the  Isthmus 
of  Darien,  and  sailed  in  command  of  one  of  the  best  expeditions  sent 
by  King  Ferdinand  to  the  New  World,  consisting  of  fifteen  ships 

232  Letters  of  Cortes 

Majesty's  Governor  in  those  parts,  and  they  made  me  a 
drawing  on  cloth  of  the  whole  of  it  by  which  I  calculated 
that  I  could  go  over  the  greater  part  of  it,  especially  as 
far  as  the  place  they  indicated  to  me  as  the  abode  of  those 
Spaniards.  Thus  informed  about  the  road  I  was  to  take 
for  carrying  out  my  plans,  and  converting  the  natives 
to  the  knowledge  of  our  Holy  Catholic  Faith,  and  bringing 
them  to  Your  Majesty's  service  (certain  as  I  was  that 
on  such  a  long  journey  I  would  have  to  cross  many 
provinces  and  encounter  people  of  divers  races),  being 
also  curious  to  know  whether  the  Spaniards  they  de- 
scribed were  those  whom  I  had  sent  under  the  Captains 
Cristobal  de  Olid,  Pedro  de  Alvarado,  or  Francisco  de  las 
Casas,  I  esteemed  it  advantageous  to  Your  Majesty's 
service  to  go  thither  myself;  inasmuch  as  my  journey 
being  through  regions  and  provinces  heretofore  unex- 
plored, I  would  have  ample  occasion  for  serving  Your 
Majesty,  and  pacifying  the  said  countries,  as  afterwards 
happened.  Conceiving  to  myself  the  result  my  expedition 
would  produce,  and  setting  aside  the  fatigues  and  ex- 
penses it  entailed,  of  which  some  of  my  people  did  not 
fail  to  remind  me,  I  determined  to  follow  the  route 
already  decided  upon  before  leaving  this  city. 

Before  I  reached  the  said  town  of  Espiritu  Santo,  I 
had  received  letters  from  this  city  at  two  or  three  places 
on  the  road,  from  my  lieutenants,  and  other  persons; 
and  Your  Majesty's  officials  who  were  with  me  likewise 
received  similar  ones.  These  informed  us  that  the 
Treasurer  and  Accounting  Master  had  quarrelled,   and 

carrying  twelve  hundred  soldiers,  besides  fifteen  hundred  gentlemen, 
or  persons  of  some  quality.  Balboa,  without  a  murmur,  surrendered 
to  the  new  Governor  his  authority  at  Santa  Maria  Antigua,  as  the 
town  on  Darien  was  called,  and  shortly  afterward  married  his  daughter; 
but,  in  spite  of  this,  Pedrarius  trumped  up  a  charge  of  disloyalty  and 
plotting  a  rebellion  against  Balboa,  who,  to  the  sorrow  and  amazement 
of  the  protesting  colonists  was  executed.  The  Bishop  of  Burgos 
protected  Pedrarius  from  the  punishment  his  conduct  merited. 

Fifth  Letter  233 

that  there  no  longer  existed  between  them  the  harmony- 
necessary  for  the  proper  discharge  of  their  respective 
functions  with  which  I,  in  Your  Majesty's  name,  had 
charged  them.  I  took  what  seemed  to  me  the  required 
measures,  which  was  to  write  them  urgent  reproofs  for 
their  conduct,  even  warning  them  that  if  they  could  not 
agree  with  one  another  and  adopt  different  methods,  I 
would  provide  a  remedy  which  would  please  neither  of 
them,  and  report  the  whole  matter  to  Your  Majesty. 
During  my  stay  in  the  said  town  of  Espiritu  Santo,  and 
while  engaged  in  preparations  for  my  journey,  fresh 
letters  came  from  the  lieutenants  and  from  other  persons, 
reporting  that  their  enmities  still  continued  and  were 
even  increased;  so  much  so  that  during  one  council 
meeting  they  had  actually  drawn  their  swords,  thus 
causing  a  great  scandal  and  commotion,  not  only  amongst 
the  Spaniards  who  armed  themselves  and  took  one  side 
or  the  other,  but  even  among  the  natives  of  the  city  who 
took  up  arms  saying  that  the  commotion  justified  them. 
Seeing  therefore  that  my  reproofs  and  warnings  were  not 
sufficient,  and  that  I  could  not  go  myself  to  remedy  the 
matter  without  abandoning  my  expedition,  it  seemed  to 
me  sufficient  to  send  the  factor  and  inspector  who  were 
with  me,  with  equal  powers  to  inquire  into  the  cause  of 
the  dispute  and  pacify  things;  and  I  even  gave  them 
another  secret  power  of  attorney,  enabling  them  to  sus- 
pend both  men  from  the  charge  which  I  had  left  them, 
if  reasonable  means  did  not  suffice,  and  to  assume  the 
government  themselves,  together  with  the  licenciate 
Alonzo  de  Zuazo,  and  to  punish  the  offenders.  I  was 
quite  convinced  that  the  errand  of  the  said  factor  and 
inspector  would  produce  good  results,  and  that  they 
would  succeed  in  pacifying  the  rival  passions,  so  I  went 
on  my  way  with  my  mind  at  ease. 

This  being  done  I  made  a  review  of  my  forces  which 
were    to    accompany  me,    and    found   that  there  were 

234  Letters  of  Cortes 

ninety-three  horsemen,  besides  crossbowmen  and  arque- 
busiers,  and  thirty  odd  foot  soldiers;  altogether  a 
Number  of  total  of  two  hundred  and  thirty  men.  I  took 
his  Force  a  large  caravel  which  had  been  sent  to  me  from 
the  town  of  Medellin,  loaded  with  provisions,  and  was 
then  at  anchor  in  the  port  of  Espiritu  Santo.  I  again 
loaded  this  vessel  with  the  stores  I  had  brought;  and, 
putting  four  pieces  of  artillery  on  board,  as  well  as  cross- 
bows, muskets,  and  other  ammunition,  I  ordered  the  crew 
to  sail  to  the  island  of  Tabasco,  and  wait  there  for  my 

I  likewise  wrote  to  a  servant  of  mine  who  lives  at 
Medellin  to  provision  two  other  caravels  and  a  large  boat 
then  in  the  port,  and  to  send  them  to  me:  I  gave  in- 
structions to  Rodrigo  de  Paz  whom  I  left  in  care  of  my 
house  and  property  in  Temixtitan  to  send  five  or  six 
thousand  ounces  of  gold  to  Medellin  to  pay  for  the  said 
provisions,  and  I  likewise  wrote  to  the  treasurer  asking 
him  to  advance  me  that  money  as  I  had  no  more  in  the 
hands  of  the  aforesaid  agent.  All  this  being  done  ac- 
cording to  my  wishes,  the  caravel  came  as  far  as  the 
River  Tabasco,  laden  with  provisions  which  proved,  how- 
ever, to  be  of  little  use,  as,  my  road  being  far  inland, 
the  heavily  laden  caravel  could  neither  go  up  the  river, 
nor  could  I  send  for  them  on  account  of  the  extensive 
swamps  that  lay  between.  Having  arranged  for  what 
was  to  go  by  sea,  I  set  out  and  marched  along  the  coast 
until  I  reached  a  province,  called  Qupilco, *  some  thirty- 
five  leagues  distant  from  Espiritu  Santo;  besides  several 
large  swamps  and  streams,  over  all  of  which  temporary 
bridges  were  built,  I  had  to  cross,  on  this  journey,  three 
very  large  rivers,  one  near  a  village,  called  Tumalo, 
some  nine  leagues  from  the  town  of  Espiritu  Santo,  the 
other  at  Agualulco,  nine  leagues  further  on;  these  were 

1  Most  probably  Tupilcos  is  meant:  no  map  shows  these  various 
names  as  Cortes  spells  them. 

Fifth  Letter  235 

crossed  in  canoes,  the  horses  swimming,  being  led  by 
halters ;  and  the  last  river  was  so  wide  that  nothing  could 
make  the  horses  swim  it,  so  I  had  to  provide  a  wooden 
bridge  about  half  a  league  up  from  the  sea  where  the 
horses  and  people  could  pass.  It  was  nine  hundred  and 
thirty  paces  long  and  was  indeed  a  marvellous  thing  to 
behold.  This  Province  of  Qupilco  abounds  in  the  fruit 
called  cacao  and  has  also  many  fisheries ;  there  are  ten  or 
twelve  good  towns,  I  mean  chief  towns  besides  hamlets, 
and  the  country  is  flat  with  many  marshes  so  that  in 
winter  it  is  impossible  to  go  about  except  in  canoes. 
Although  I  traversed  it  in  the  dry  season  from  one  end 
to  the  other,  which  is  about  twenty  leagues,  more  than 
fifty  bridges  had  to  be  built  for  the  passage  of  men  and 
horses.  The  natives  are  quiet  and  peaceable,  though 
rather  timid  and  shy  owing  to  the  little  intercourse  they 
had  had  with  Spaniards,  but,  through  my  arrival,  they 
became  more  confident  and  served  very  willingly,  not  only 
myself  and  my  companions,  but  also  the  Spaniards  to 
whom  they  were  allotted  on  any  departure. 

From  this  province  of  Qupilco,  according  to  the  draw- 
ing the  natives  of  Tabasco  and  Xicalango  had  given  me, 
I  was  to  proceed  to  another,  called  Cagoatan;  but,  as 
the  natives  travelled  only  by  water,  they  were  ignorant 
of  any  overland  route,  though  they  pointed  out  to  me 
where  the  said  province  was  supposed  to  be.  I  was 
obliged,  therefore,  to  send  some  Spaniards  and  Indians  in 
that  direction  to  look  for  the  road,  and,  upon  discover- 
ing it,  to  make  it  possible  for  the  rest  of  us  to  advance ; 
for  it  was  through  very  great  forests.  It  pleased  our 
Lord  that,  after  some  difficulty,  it  should  be  found,  for, 
besides  the  forests,  there  were  many  troublesome  marshes 
over  all,  or  most,  of  which  bridges  had  to  be  built,  and  we 
had  to  cross  the  great  river,  called  Quecalapa,  a  tributary 
of  the  Tabasco.  From  there,  I  sent  two  Spaniards  to 
the  chiefs  of  Tabasco  and  Conapa,  asking  them  to  send 

236  Letters  of  Cortes 

me  some  fifteen  or  twenty  canoes  to  bring  provisions  up 
that  river  from  the  caravels  lying  there,  and  to  help  me 
to  cross  the  river  and  to  transport  the  provisions  to  the 
chief  town  of  Zaguatan,  which,  it  afterwards  appeared, 
was  some  twelve  leagues  up  the  river  from  where  I 
crossed;  and  they  did  all  this,  complying  exactly  with 
my  request. 

After  discovering  the  road  to  the  River  Zalapa, l  which, 
as  I  said,  we  had  to  cross,  I  left  the  last  village  of  the 
province  of  Qupilco,  called  Anaxuxuan,  and  slept  that 
first  night  on  the  open  ground  between  some  lagoons; 
and  early  the  next  day  we  reached  the  river  but  found 
no  canoes  in  which  to  cross  because  those  I  had  sent  to 
ask  from  the  chief  of  Tabasco  had  not  arrived.  I  learnt, 
moreover,  that  the  scouts  who  went  ahead  were  opening 
the  road  up  the  river  from  the  other  side,  because,  having 
been  told  that  it  flowed  through  the  principal  town  of 
the  said  province,  they  naturally  followed  its  course  so 
as  not  to  go  astray.  One  of  them  had  gone  in  a  canoe 
by  water  to  reach  the  town  the  sooner,  and  on  his  arrival 
had  found  all  the  people  in  a  commotion,  so  he  spoke  to 
them  through  an  interpreter  he  had  with  him;  and,  after 
succeeding  in  calming  them  somewhat,  he  sent  some 
Indians  in  his  canoe  down  the  river  to  tell  me  what  had 
happened  with  the  natives  of  that  town,  and  that  he  was 
coming  down  himself,  opening  the  road  by  which  I  was 
to  march  until  he  should  meet  the  scouts  who  were  work- 
ing up  on  this  other  side.  This  news  gave  me  great 
pleasure,  not  merely  because  it  made  known  the  peaceful 
disposition  of  the  natives,  but  also  because  it  assured 
to  me  a  road  which  I  had  thought  was  doubtful,  or  at 
least  very  difficult.  On  the  canoe  brought  by  these  In- 
dians, and  some  rafts  which  I  had  built  out  of  logs,  I 
managed  to  send  all  the  heavy  baggage  to  the  other  side 
of  the  river,  which  at  that  point  is  very  wide.     While 

1  Also  sometimes  given  as  Quezolape,  and  Guezalapa. 

Fifth  Letter  237 

occupied  in  crossing,  those  Spaniards  whom  I  had  sent 
to  Tabasco  arrived  with  twenty  canoes  loaded  with 
supplies  from  the  large  caravel  which  I  had  sent  there 
from  Coazacoalco;  and  I  learned  from  them  that  the 
two  other  large  caravels  and  the  ship  had  not  yet  arrived 
in  the  river,  having  remained  behind  at  Coazacoalco, 
but  that  they  were  expected  soon.  No  less  than  two 
hundred  Indians  from  Tabasco  and  Cunapa  came  in  the 
said  canoes,  and  I  crossed  the  river  without  other  accident 
than  the  drowning  of  a  negro  slave  and  the  loss  of  two 
loads  of  iron  tools  of  which  we  afterwards  stood  in  some 

That  night,  I,  with  all  my  people,  slept  on  the  other 
side  of  the  river,  and  the  next  day  set  out  to  follow  the 
track  of  the  scouts  who  were  opening  the  road,  having 
no  other  guide  but  the  river  bank  itself.  We  marched 
thus  about  six  leagues,  and  arrived  under  a  pouring  rain 
in  a  forest,  where  we  slept.  During  the  night,  the  Span- 
iard who  had  gone  up  the  river  to  the  town  of  Qagoatan 
came  back  with  some  seventy  Indians,  natives  of  that 
place,  and  told  me  that  he  had  opened  the  road  on  the 
other  side,  but  that  if  I  wished  to  take  it  I  would  have 
to  retrace  my  steps  for  a  distance  of  two  leagues.  I  did 
this,  but  gave  orders  at  the  same  time  that  the  scouts, 
who  were  in  advance  cutting  their  way  along  the  bank 
of  the  river,  and  who  had  already  gone  three  leagues 
from  the  place  where  I  myself  had  passed  the  night, 
should  continue  their  work:  they  had  scarcely  advanced 
a  league  and  a  half  when  they  reached  the  outskirts  of 
the  town,  and,  in  this  way,  two  roads  were  open  where 
before  there  had  been  none. 

I  took  the  road  opened  by  the  natives,  and,  although 
it  proved  a  hard  one,  on  account  of  the  torrents  of  rain 
which  had  fallen  that  day  and  of  the  many  swamps  we 
had  to  cross,  I  still  managed  to  arrive  on  the  same  day 
at  one  of  the  suburbs  of  the  said  town,  which,  though 

238  Letters  of  Cortes 

the  smallest  of  all,  contained  more  than  two  hundred 
sufficiently  good  houses;  we  could  not  reach  the  other 
because  it  was  separated  from  us  by  rivers  which  flowed 
between  and  which  we  could  have  crossed  only  by 

The  towns  were  all  very  deserted,  and  we  found,  upon 
our  arrival,  that  all  the  Indians  who  had  accompanied 
the  Spaniards  had  also  fled,  notwithstanding  that  I  had 
spoken  to  them  kindly  and  treated  them  well,  distributing 
among  them  some  of  the  trifles  I  had  with  me,  and  thank- 
ing them  for  the  pains  they  had  taken  in  opening  the 
said  road.  I  had  told  them  that  my  coming  to  these 
parts  was  by  Your  Majesty's  commands  and  for  no  other 
purpose  than  to  teach  them  to  believe  in  and  worship 
only  one  God,  Creator  and  Maker  of  all  things,  and  to 
acknowledge  Your  Majesty  as  supreme  lord  of  the  country, 
and  many  other  like  things,  which  I  usually  said  to  them. 
I  waited  three  or  four  days,  thinking  they  had  left  from 
fear  and  would  come  back  to  speak  to  me,  but  none  of 
them  ever  appeared. 

In  order  to  bring  them  by  peaceable  means  to  Your 
Majesty's  service,  and  to  obtain  information  from  them 
about  my  road,  for  there  seemed  not  to  be  even  a  track 
of  a  single  person  ever  having  gone  on  land,  all  travelling 
on  the  great  rivers  and  lakes,  I  determined  to  send  two 
companies  of  Spaniards  and  some  natives  of  Temixtitan, 
whom  I  had  with  me,  to  search  for  the  people  of  the 
province  and  bring  some  of  them  to  me.  By  means  of 
the  canoes  which  had  come  up  the  river  from  Tabasco, 
and  of  others  we  procured  at  the  said  town,  my  men 
managed  to  navigate  most  of  the  rivers  and  swamps,  as 
marching  overland  seemed  impracticable;  but  they  dis- 
covered only  two  Indians  and  some  women  from  whom 
I  took  every  pains  to  ascertain  where  their  chief  and 
his  people  were.  They  told  me  no  more,  however,  than 
that  they  were  wandering  dispersed  through  the  forest, 

Fifth  Letter  239 

swamps,  and  rivers.  I  likewise  asked  them  about  the 
road  to  the  province  of  Chilapan,  which,  according  to 
the  drawing  I  had,  was  the  next  on  my  road;  but  they 
would  never  tell  me,  saying  that  their  only  mode  of 
travel  was  by  rivers  and  swamps  in  their  canoes,  and 
that  they  only  knew  how  to  go  thither  by  water  and 
never  by  land.  They  did,  however,  point  out  to  me  a 
chain  of  mountains,  some  ten  leagues  distant  perhaps, 
saying  that  in  its  neighbourhood  stood  the  principal 
town  of  Chilapanon  on  the  banks  of  a  large  river  which  t 
joining  with  the  Qagoatan  lower  down,  flowed  afterwards 
into  the  Tabasco ;  and  that  further  up  the  river  there  was 
another  town,  called  Acumba 1 ;  but  neither  did  they  know 
any  road  thither  by  land. 

I  remained  in  this  town  twenty  days,  during  which  I 
never  ceased  to  seek  a  road  leading  to  somewhere,  but  I 
never  found  one,  either  great  or  small;  on  the  character 
contrary,  the  country  about  us  had  so  many  of  the 

swamps  and  lagoons  that  it  seemed  impossible  Country 
to  cross  them,  but,  as  we  were  already  in  such  straits 
from  want  of  provisions,  we  commended  our  souls 
to  God,  our  Creator,  and  built  over  the  marsh  a  bridge 
three  hundred  paces  in  length,  which  was  constructed 
of  many  large  beams,  between  thirty-five  and  forty 
feet  in  length,  on  which  cross  beams  were  laid,  and 
on  these  we  passed  over,  marching  through  the  coun- 
try in  quest  of  the  place  where  we  had  been  told  was 
the  town  of  Chilapan.  Meanwhile,  I  sent  a  company 
of  horsemen,  with  crossbowmen,  by  another  way  to 
search  for  the  town  of  Acumba,  and  they  found  it  that 
same  day.  By  swimming  and  by  means  of  two  canoes 
which  they  found  there,  they  surprised  the  villages  whose 
inhabitants  fled  so  they  were  unable  to  capture  any  except 

1  Also  written  Athumba,  but,  according  to  Gayangos,  Ocumba 
appears  very  distinctly  in  the  Vienna  MS. :  he  adds  that  some  writers 
identify  the  place  as  Cicimbra. 

240  Letters  of  Cortes 

two  men  and  some  women  with  whom  they  came  to  meet 
me  on  the  road ;  they  also  found  plenty  of  provisions. 
That  night,  I  slept  on  the  open  ground. 

Next  day,  it  pleased  God  that  we  should  come  to  a 
dryer  country  with  fewer  marshes,  and  those  Indians 
who  had  been  taken  at  Acumba  guided  us  as  far  as  Chila- 
pan,  where  we  arrived  late  the  next  day,  finding  all  the 
town  burned  and  the  natives  absent.  This  town  of 
Chilapan  is  beautifully  situated  and  very  large.  It  is 
surrounded  by  plantations  of  fruit  trees  of  the  country 
and  fields  of  maize,  which,  though  not  yet  ripe,  were  of 
great  comfort  to  us  in  our  necessity.  I  remained  there 
two  days,  laying  in  supplies  for  the  journey,  and  sending 
out  some  expeditions  into  the  neighbourhood  to  capture, 
if  possible,  some  natives  from  whom  I  might  learn  about 
the  road;  but  with  the  exception  of  two  at  first,  who  were 
found  concealed  in  the  village,  all  our  searching  was  in 
vain.  I  got  information  from  these,  however,  about 
the  road  to  Tepetitan,  l  otherwise  called  Tamacaste- 
peque;  although  they  hardly  knew  their  way  thither, 
we  were  fortunate  enough,  sometimes  by  their  guidance, 
and  sometimes  by  half  feeling  our  way,  to  reach  that 
town  within  two  days. 

On  the  road,  we  had  to  cross  a  large  river,  called  Chila- 
pan, from  which  the  town  took  its  name,  and  this  was 
accomplished  with  great  difficulty  owing  to  the  deep 
and  rapid  stream;  we  used  rafts  as  there  were  no  canoes 
there  and  we  lost  a  negro  who  was  drowned,  and  much 
of  the  baggage  of  the  Spaniards.  After  this  river,  which 
we  crossed  at  a  place  a  league  and  a  half  distant  from 
the  said  village  of  Chilapan,  we  had  to  cross  several  large 
swamps  before  reaching  Tepetitan,  in  all  of  which  but 
one  the  horses  sank  to  their  knees  and  many  times  to 
their  ears.  Between  Chilapan  and  Tepetitan,  a  distance 
of  six  or  seven  leagues,  the  country  was  full  of  similar 

1  Tepetizan. 

Fifth  Letter  241 

swamps;  one  especially  we  found  so  perilous  that, 
though  a  bridge  was  built  over  it  two  or  three  Spaniards 
were  very  nearly  drowned.  After  two  days  of  such 
fatigues,  we  reached  the  said  village  of  Tepetitan,  which 
we  also  found  burned  and  deserted,  thus  causing  us 
double  hardship.  We  found  some  fruits  of  the  country 
inside  and  some  fields  of  maize  in  the  neighbourhood, 
unripe,  though  it  was  taller  than  that  at  Chilapan;  we 
also  discovered  under  the  burnt  houses,  some  granaries 
which  contained  small  quantities  of  maize;  this  was  of 
great  help  in  the  extreme  necessity  to  which  we  were 
reduced.  At  this  village  of  Tepetitan,  which  stands 
at  the  foot  of  a  mountain  chain,  I  remained  six  full  days, 
causing  excursions  to  be  made  in  search  of  natives  who 
might  be  induced  to  return  peaceably  to  their  dwellings 
and  point  out  to  us  the  road  ahead;  but  we  never  could 
catch  but  a  single  man  and  some  women  from  whom  I 
learned  that  the  chief  and  natives  of  the  town  had  been 
induced  by  the  people  of  Qagoatan  to  burn  their  village 
and  fly  to  the  woods.  The  man  said  that  he  did  not  know 
the  road  to  Iztapan,  the  next  place  on  my  map,  there 
being,  as  he  said,  no  road  overland,  but  that  he  would 
guide  us  more  or  less  towards  the  vicinity  in  which  he 
knew  it  was. 

With  this  guide,  I  sent  thirty  Spaniards  on  horseback 
and  thirty  men  on  foot  with  instructions  to  discover  the 
village  of  Iztapan,  and,  once  there,  to  write  me  a  de- 
scription of  the  road  I  was  to  follow;  for  I  decided  not  to 
leave  the  place  where  I  had  camped  until  I  heard  from 
them.  They  left,  but,  at  the  end  of  two  days,  having  re- 
ceived no  letters,  nor  other  news,  from  them,  and  seeing, 
moreover,  the  extreme  want  to  which  we  were  reduced, 
I  decided  to  follow  them  without  a  guide  and  with  no 
other  indication  of  the  road  they  had  taken  than  their 
footsteps  in  the  fearful,  miry  swamps,  with  which  the 
country  is  covered;  for  I  assure  Your  Majesty  that,  even 

VOL.  II— 16 

242  Letters  of  Cortes 

on  the  hill  tops,  our  horses,  being  led,  and  without  their 
riders,  sank  to  their  girths  in  the  mire.  In  this  manner, 
I  travelled  two  days  on  the  said  trail,  without  receiving 
any  news  of  the  people  who  had  gone  ahead;  and  I  was 
perplexed  enough  as  to  what  I  should  do,  because  to  go 
back  I  held  as  impossible,  and  to  proceed  with  no  cer- 
tainty of  the  road  seemed  equally  so.  God,  Who  in  our 
greatest  afflictions  often  comes  to  our  help,  was  pleased 
to  permit  that,  while  we  were  encamping  in  great  sadness 
and  distress,  believing  we  were  all  destined  to  perish  of 
hunger,  two  Indians  should  arrive,  bringing  letters  from 
the  Spaniards  whom  I  had  sent  ahead.  They  informed 
me  that  upon  reaching  the  village  of  Iztapan,  they  found 
that  the  natives  had  sent  all  their  women  and  property 
across  a  large  river,  which  ran  close  to  that  place,  and 
that  the  village  itself  was  full  of  natives,  who  thought 
the  Spaniards  would  not  be  able  to  pass  the  great  swamp 
near  by;  but,  when  they  saw  my  men  swimming  across 
it  on  their  horses,  they  had  been  much  frightened  and 
had  begun  to  burn  their  village,  which  my  men  pre- 
vented by  putting  out  the  fire.  Seeing  this,  all  the  in- 
habitants fled  to  the  banks  of  the  river,  which  they  crossed, 
either  in  numerous  canoes  or  by  swimming,  and  in  their 
haste  and  confusion,  which  were  very  great,  many  were 
drowned;  my  Spaniards,  nevertheless,  had  succeeded 
in  capturing  seven  or  eight,  among  whom  there  was  one 
who  seemed  to  be  a  chief;  the  letter  also  added  that  they 
were  anxiously  awaiting  my  arrival.  I  cannot  describe 
to  Your  Majesty  the  great  joy  the  receipt  of  this  letter 
caused  all  my  people,  for,  as  I  said  above,  we  had  almost 
despaired  of  relief. 

Early  the  next  morning,  I  continued  my  march,  guided 
by  the  Indians  who  had  brought  the  letter,  and,  in  this 
March  to  manner,  I  arrived  at  Iztapan  late  in  the  even- 
Iztapan  ing,  where  I  found  all  the  people  who  had  gone 
ahead  very  contented ;  for  they  had  discovered  many  plan- 

Fifth  Letter  243 

tations  of  maize,  though  the  grain  was  not  yet  ripe,  and 
also  yucas  and  agoes 1  in  great  abundance,  these  latter  two 
furnishing  sustenance  and  constituting  the  food  of  the 
natives  of  the  Islands.  I  immediately  had  brought  before 
me  those  natives  of  the  town  who  had  been  captured 
there,  asking  them  through  the  interpreter  why  they 
had  burned  their  own  houses  and  towns  and  why  they 
fled  since  I  intended  them  no  harm  or  mischief,  but  rather 
shared  what  I  had  with  those  whom  I  met.  They  an- 
swered that  the  chief  of  Qagoatan  had  come  in  a  canoe  and 
frightened  them,  inducing  them  to  fire  their  town  and 
abandon  it.  I  had  the  chief  and  all  the  men  and  women 
who  had  been  captured  in  Qagoatan  and  Chilapan  and 
Tepetitan  brought  before  me,  and  explained  to  them 
how  that  wicked  man  had  deceived  them,  telling  them 
they  might  inform  themselves  from  those  Indians  now 
before  me,  by  asking  them  whether  I  or  any  of  my  people 
had  done  them  any  harm  or  mischief,  or  if  they  had  not 
been  well  treated  in  my  company.  Being  informed  by 
them,  they  all  began  to  weep,  declaring  they  had  been 
deceived  and  showing  great  grief  for  what  had  happened. 
In  order  to  reassure  them,  I  gave  permission  to  all  the 
Indians,  both  men  and  women,  who  had  come  with  me 
from  the  other  villages  to  return  to  their  homes,  making 
them  some  small  presents  and  giving  them  sundry  letters 
which  I  ordered  them  to  keep  in  their  towns,  and  to 
show  to  any  Spaniards  who  might  pass  there,  because  by 
them  they  would  be  protected.  I  also  told  them  to  ex- 
plain to  their  chiefs  the  mistake  they  had  committed 
in  burning  their  houses  and  towns  and  in  abandoning 
them,  and  that  henceforth  they  must  not  act  thus,  but 
rather  stop  confidently  in  their  homes  as  no  harm  or 
evil  would  be   done  them.     After  this,  they  left,  well 

1  The  root  of  the  Yuca  (vulgarly  called  Adam's  needle)  is  fari- 
naceous and  edible:  the  Agoes  or  Aji  are  the  red  peppers  so  commonly 
used  in  Mexican  dishes. 

244  Letters  of  Cortes 

satisfied  and  contented,  as  were  likewise  the  others  who 

After  this,  I  spoke  to  the  Indian  who  seemed  to  be 
their  chief,  and  told  him  to  observe  how  I  harmed  no 
one  about  me;  neither  was  my  coming  there  for  the  pur- 
pose of  offending  them,  but  rather  to  make  known  many 
things  to  them  which  were  advantageous,  not  only  for 
the  security  of  their  lives  and  property,  but  also  for  the 
salvation  of  their  souls.  For  the  same  reason  I  besought 
him  earnestly  to  send  two  or  three  of  his  people,  with 
whom  I  would  send  as  many  more  of  the  natives  of 
Temixtitan,  to  call  the  chief  and  tell  him  not  to  be  afraid, 
for  by  his  coming  he  would  profit  greatly.  He  answered 
that  he  would  be  pleased  to  do  this,  and  he  immediately 
sent  his  people  with  whom  went  the  Indians  of  Mexico, 
and,  the  next  morning,  the  messengers  returned  with 
the  chief  and  some  forty  men.  The  chief  told  me  he  had 
abandoned  his  town  and  ordered  it  to  be  burned  because 
the  lord  of  Qagoatan  had  advised  him  to  do  this,  and  not 
to  meet  me,  as  I  would  kill  them  all,  and  that  he  had 
learned  from  those  who  had  come  to  call  him  that  he  had 
been  deceived,  and  that  he  was  sorry  for  what  had  hap- 
pened, praying  me  to  pardon  him,  for  henceforth  he  would 
obey  me;  and  he  besought  me  that  certain  women  who 
had  been  captured  by  the  Spaniards  when  they  arrived 
should  be  restored  to  him,  so  twenty  were  immediately 
collected  which  pleased  him  greatly. 

It  happened,  however,  that  a  Spaniard  saw  an  Indian 
of  Temixtitan  eating  a  piece  of  flesh  taken  from  the  body 
Punish-  °f  an  Indian  who  had  been  killed  when  they 
ment  of  entered  Iztapan,  and  he  told  me  this ;  so  in 
Cannibalism  foe  presence  of  that  chief  I  had  the  culprit 
burned,  explaining  that  the  cause  was  his  having  killed 
that  Indian  and  eaten  him  which  was  prohibited  by 
Your  Majesty,  and  by  me  in  Your  Royal  name.  I 
further  made   the    chief   understand  that   all  the  peo- 

Fifth  Letter  245 

pie  of  those  parts  must  abstain  from  this  custom,  and 
that  I  had  punished  that  man  with  death  because  he 
had  slain  and  eaten  a  fellow  creature,  for  I  wished  that 
none  should  be  killed,  but  that,  on  the  contrary,  I  came 
by  order  of  Your  Majesty  to  protect  their  lives  as  well 
as  their  property  and  to  teach  them  that  they  were  to 
adore  but  one  God,  who  is  in  the  heavens,  Creator  and 
Maker  of  all  things,  through  whom  all  creatures  live  and 
are  governed;  and  that  they  must  turn  from  their  idols, 
and  the  rites  they  had  practised  until  then,  for  these  were 
lies  and  deceptions  which  the  devil,  the  enemy  of  the 
human  race,  had  invented  for  deceiving  them  and  to  bring 
them  to  eternal  damnation,  where  great  and  frightful 
torments  awaited  them;  being  thus  deprived  of  the 
knowledge  of  God  they  could  not  be  saved  nor  come  into 
the  enjoyment  of  glorious  and  eternal  beatitude,  which 
God  had  promised  and  has  prepared  for  them  who  believe 
in  Him;  all  of  which  the  devil  through  his  malice  and 
evil  doings  had  lost.  I,  likewise,  had  come  to  teach  them 
that  Your  Majesty,  by  the  will  of  Divine  Providence, 
rules  the  universe,  and  that  they  also  must  submit 
themselves  to  the  imperial  yoke,  and  do  all  that  we 
who  are  Your  Majesty's  ministers  here  might  order  them 
in  Your  Royal  name;  for,  acting  thus,  they  would  be 
favoured  and  maintained  in  justice,  and  their  lives  and 
properties  protected,  but  that,  acting  otherwise,  they 
would  be  proceeded  against  and  punished  according  to 
justice.  I  told  them  many  things  concerning  these 
matters  which,  as  they  were  lengthy,  I  do  not  repeat  to 
Your   Majesty. 

The  chief  showed  much  satisfaction,  and  sent  some 
of  his  people  to  bring  provisions,  and  I  gave  him 
some  presents  from  Spain,  which  he  admired  very 
much ;  and  all  the  time  he  remained  with  me  he  was 
very  contented.  He  ordered  a  road  to  be  opened  to 
another  town,  called  Tatahuitalpan,  five  leagues  up  the 

246  Letters  of  Cortes 

river  from  this,  and,  as  we  had  to  cross  a  very  deep  river, 
he  had  an  excellent  bridge  made  over  it  on  which  we 
crossed,  and  he  filled  in  some  very  big  swamps,  and  gave 
me  three  canoes  in  which  I  sent  three  Spaniards  down 
the  river  to  Tabasco  (because  this  is  the  principal  river 
which  empties  into  it)  where  the  ships  were,  as  I  have 
said,  awaiting  my  orders.  I  sent  orders  with  these 
Spaniards  that  they  were  to  follow  the  coast  until  they 
doubled  the  cape,  called  Yucatan,  after  which  they  should 
proceed  to  the  Bay  of  Ascension,  where  they  would  either 
find  me  or  my  orders  as  to  what  they  were  to  do  next. 
I  also  ordered  the  three  Spaniards  who  went  in  the  canoes 
and  all  those  they  could  collect  in  the  provinces  of 
Tabasco  and  Xiculango  to  bring  me  as  many  pro- 
visions as  they  could  by  way  of  the  great  salt  lagoon 
which  connects  with  the  province  of  Aculan,  some  forty 
leagues  distant  from  Iztapan,  where  I  would  wait  for 

These  Spaniards  having  departed,  and  the  road  being 
completed,  I  begged  the  chief  of  Iztapan  to  give  me  three 
or  four  other  canoes  in  which  to  send  up  the  river  a  half 
dozen  Spaniards  and  some  of  his  people,  under  a  chief, 
to  tranquillise  the  natives,  and  prevent  them  from  burning 
and  deserting  their  towns;  he  did  this  with  every  show 
of  good  will,  and  my  people,  being  accompanied  by  Indians 
from  Iztapan,  succeeded  in  quieting  the  inhabitants  of 
four  or  five  villages  up  the  river,  as  I  shall  hereafter  relate 
to  Your  Majesty. 

This  town  of  Iztapan  is  very  large  and  built  on 
the  bank  of  a  very  beautiful  river.  Its  position  is 
advantageous  for  a  Spanish  settlement,  and  the 
pasture  is  excellent  along  the  banks  of  the  river,  while 
there  is  good  farming  land;  and  the  country  is  well 

After  stopping  eight  days  in  Iztapan,  and  having  pro- 
vided everything  as  specified  in  the  former  chapter,  I  left, 

Fifth  Letter  247 

and  arrived  that  day  at  the  small  town  of  Tatahuitalpan, 
and  found  it  burned  and  deserted.  I  reached  there  before 
the  canoes,  which  were  coming  up  the  river  Departure 
and  were    delayed  by  the  strong  currents  and  from 

many  windings.  After  their  arrival,  I  sent  Iztapan 
some  people  to  cross  in  them  to  the  other  bank  in 
search  of  the  natives  of  the  town,  in  order  to  reassure 
them.  About  half  a  league  on  the  other  side  of  the 
river,  they  found  some  twenty  men  in  one  of  the 
temples  of  their  idols,  which  they  had  decorated  pro- 
fusely; these  they  brought  to  me,  telling  me  that  all  the 
people  had  abandoned  the  place  through  fear,  but  they 
had  preferred  to  remain  on  the  spot  and  die  with  their 
gods.  While  engaged  in  this  talk  with  them,  some  of  our 
Indians  passed,  carrying  some  things  taken  from  those 
idols,  seeing  which,  the  natives  cried  out  that  their  gods 
had  been  killed ;  I  replied  to  this,  telling  them  to  observe 
what  a  vain  and  foolish  belief  was  theirs,  for  they  believed 
that  gods  who  could  not  even  protect  themselves  could 
give  them  benefits,  and  to  behold  how  easily  they  were 
destroyed:  they  answered  me  that  their  fathers  had  held 
that  creed,  and  until  they  knew  of  a  better  one  that  they 
would  hold  it.  I  was  unable,  on  account  of  the  brevity 
of  the  time,  to  explain  this  subject  more  fully  than  I  had 
already  done  to  the  people  at  Iztapan,  but  two  Fran- 
ciscan friars,  who  were  with  me,  also  told  them  many 
things  about  these  matters.  I  besought  them  to  send 
and  call  the  chief  and  people  of  the  town  and  to  reassure 
them,  and  the  chief  whom  I  had  brought  from  Iztapan 
also  told  them  of  the  kindness  they  had  received  from  me 
in  his  town,  upon  which  they  pointed  out  one  of  them- 
selves, saying  that  he  was  their  chief;  so  he  sent 
two  of  them  to  call  the  people  to  return,  but  they  never 

Seeing  that  they  did  not  come,  I  besought  the  one 
who  I  was  told  was  the  chief  to  show  me  the  road  to 

248  Letters  of  Cortes 

Qagoatespan, *  through  which,  according  to  my  map, 
I  would  have  to  pass  higher  up  this  river;  and  he  said 
that  he  did  not  know  the  way  by  land,  but  only  by  the 
river,  as  they  all  travelled  that  way,  but  that  he  would 
try  to  guide  us  through  those  forests,  though  he  was  uncer- 
tain whether  he  might  reach  there  or  not.  I  asked  him  to 
show  me  from  there  whereabouts  it  stood;  and  I  marked 
it  the  best  I  could,  and  ordered  the  Spaniards  of  the 
canoes  and  the  Chief  of  Iztapan  to  go  up  the  river  to  the 
said  town  of  Qagoatespan  and  reassure  its  people  and 
those  of  another  town,  which  they  would  come  to  first, 
called  Ozumazintlan ;  if  I  arrived  first  I  would  wait  for 
them,  otherwise  they  should  wait  for  me.  Having 
despatched  these  men,  I  departed  with  the  native  guides 
and,  leaving  the  town,  I  came  to  a  great  marsh,  more 
than  half  a  league  in  length,  which  we  managed  to  pass, 
after  the  Indians  our  friends,  had  lain  down  branches 
and  underbrush.  We  next  came  to  a  deep  lagoon  over 
which  we  were  obliged  to  build  a  bridge  for  the  passage 
of  the  heavy  baggage  and  the  saddles,  whilst  the  horses 
crossed  swimming.  After  that,  we  came  to  another  deep 
lagoon,  more  than  a  league  long,  where  the  water  was 
never  below  the  knees  of  the  horses,  and  many  times  up 
to  the  girths,  but,  as  the  bottom  was  rather  solid,  we 
crossed  without  accident,  and  reached  the  forest  through 
which  we  cut  our  way  as  best  we  could  during  two  con- 
secutive days,  until  our  guides  said  they  were  bewildered 
and  knew  not  whither  they  were  going.  The  forest  was 
such  that  we  could  see  nothing  but  the  ground  where  we 
stood,  or,  looking  upwards,  the  sky  above  our  heads,  such 
were  the  height  and  density  of  the  trees ;  and  although 
some  climbed  up  them,  they  could  not  see  a  stone's 
throw  ahead. 

When  those  who  were  ahead  with  the  guides  opening 

1  Singuatepecpan,  various  spellings,    Bernal  Diaz  calls   it    Cigua- 

Fifth  Letter  249 

the  roads  sent  me  word  that  they  were  lost,  I  ordered 
them  to  stop  where  they  were  and  went  ahead  on  foot 
till  I  came  up  with  them  and  saw  the  bewilderment  in 
which  they  were;  I  made  the  people  turn  back  to  a  small 
marsh  we  had  crossed  the  day  before,  and  where  there 
was  some  pasturage  for  the  horses,  since  they  had  had 
nothing  to  eat  for  forty-eight  hours.  We  remained  there 
that  night,  suffering  much  from  hunger,  and  hopeless  of 
finding  any  populated  place,  so  that  my  people  were  more 
dead  than  alive.  I  consulted  my  compass  by  which  I 
had  often  guided  myself,  though  never  had  we  been  in 
such  a  plight  as  this,  and,  remembering  the  direction  in 
which  the  Indians  said  the  town  stood,  I  calculated  that, 
by  going  towards  the  north-east  from  where  we  were  we 
would  come  out  at,  or  very  near  to,  the  town;  so  I  or- 
dered those  who  were  ahead  opening  the  road  to  take 
the  compass  with  them  and  follow  that  direction  without 
deviating  from  it.  Our  Lord  was  pleased  that  they 
should  come  out  so  exactly  that,  at  the  hour  of  vespers, 
they  came  upon  some  temples  of  the  idols  in  the  centre 
of  the  town,  which  caused  such  rejoicing  among  the 
people  that  they  all  ran  to  the  town  as  though  almost 
out  of  their  senses,  and,  not  observing  a  large  marsh  at 
its  entrance,  many  of  the  horses  sank  in  it  so  that  some 
could  not  be  got  out  until  the  following  day,  God  being 
pleased,  however,  that  none  should  perish;  and  we  who 
came  in  the  rear  avoided  the  swamp,  though  with  con- 
siderable difficulty. 

We  found  5ag°atespan  entirely  burned;  even  to  the 
mosques  and  houses  of  their  idols,  nor  did  we  find  any 
people  there,  nor  news  of  the  canoes  which  Arrival  at 
were  ascending  the  river.  There  was  plenty  Singuate- 
of  maize,  riper  than  that  of  other  places,  also  pespan 
yuca  and  agoes,  and  good  pasture  for  the  horses  on 
the  banks  of  the  river,  which  are  very  fertile  and  cov- 
ered with  fine  grass.     Thus  refreshed,  our  past  troubles 

250  Letters  of  Cortes 

were  forgotten,  although  I  was  uneasy  at  hearing  no- 
thing from  the  canoes.  Walking  about  this  village  and 
inspecting  it,  I  found  a  cross-bow  arrow  stuck  in  the 
ground,  by  which  I  knew  that  the  canoes  had  been  there, 
for  all  of  the  men  in  them  were  archers;  this  grieved  me, 
leading  me  to  believe  they  had  fought  there  and  been 
killed,  since  none  of  them  appeared.  To  ascertain  the 
truth,  if  possbile,  I  sent  some  of  my  people,  in  certain 
small  canoes  which  were  found  there,  to  explore  the  river 
on  the  other  side.  They  soon  met  a  great  number  of 
Indians,  and  saw  many  cultivated  fields,  and,  proceeding 
on  their  way,  they  reached  a  large  lake  where  all  the 
people  of  the  town,  partly  in  canoes  and  partly  on  small 
islands,  had  collected;  who,  when  they  saw  the  Christians, 
came  to  meet  them  very  confidently,  though  without 
understanding  what  they  said.  Thirty  or  forty  were 
brought  to  me,  and,  after  I  had  spoken  to  them,  they 
said  that  they  had  burned  their  town  at  the  instigation 
of  the  chief  of  Qagoatespan,  and  had  gone  to  the  lakes 
out  of  fear;  and  that,  afterwards,  some  Christians  of  my 
party,  had  come  there  in  canoes,  accompanied  by  natives 
of  Iztapan,  from  whom  they  heard  of  the  good  treatment 
shown  to  everybody,  which  had  reassured  them;  and 
that  the  Christians  had  stopped  there  two  days  waiting 
for  me,  but,  as  I  had  not  come,  they  had  gone  up  the 
river  to  another  town,  called  Petenecte, x  accompanied 
by  the  brother  of  their  chief  and  four  canoes  full  of  people 
to  help  them  in  case  that  other  town  should  be  hostile; 
and  that  they  had  been  given  all  the  provisions  they 
needed.  I  greatly  rejoiced  at  this  news,  and  believed 
them,  seeing  they  came  so  confidently  to  me,  and  were  so 
well  disposed.     I,  therefore,  prayed  them  to  immediately 

1  Petenacte :  also  Penacte.  As  these  names  belong  for  the  most 
part  to  obscure  Indian  villages  which  appear  on  no  map,  and  are  writ- 
ten with  every  variety  of  spelling,  correction  is  undertaken  only  when 
it  seems  important  to  identify  a  spot    by   its    correct  geographical 

Fifth  Letter  251 

send  a  canoe  with  people  in  search  of  these  Spaniards, 
and  to  take  a  letter  of  mine,  ordering  them  to  return  to 
that  place  forthwith.  This  they  executed  with  dili- 
gence enough,  and  I  gave  them  my  letter  for  the  Span- 
iards; so,  the  next  day,  at  the  hour  of  vespers,  the  latter 
arrived  accompanied  by  the  townspeople  who  had  gone 
with  them,  and  the  four  other  canoes  full  of  people  and 
provisions  from  the  town  whence  they  had  come;  and 
they  told  me  that  they  had  crossed  the  river  higher  up 
after  leaving  me,  arriving  at  Ozumazintlan,  which  they 
found  burned  and  deserted;  and  that  the  natives  of  Iz- 
tapan  who  accompanied  them,  had  searched  for  the 
people  and  called  them,  so  that  many  had  come  very 
confidently,  bringing  them  provisions  and  everything 
they  had  asked  for.  And  thus,  they  had  left  them  in 
their  town,  and  afterwards  had  gone  to  Qagoatespan, 
which  they  also  found  deserted,  the  inhabitants  having 
gone  to  the  other  side  of  the  river;  but  the  people  of 
Iztapan  had  spoken  to  them,  so  they  had  come  back 
rejoicing,  and  had  given  the  Spaniards  a  good  reception 
and  all  the  provisions  they  required.  They  had  waited 
there  for  me  two  days,  and,  as  I  did  not  come,  they 
thought  I  had  gone  higher  up,  so  they  went  on  accom- 
panied by  the  people  of  that  village  to  the  next  town, 
Petenecte,  which  is  six  leagues  from  there,  rinding  it  also 
deserted  but  not  burned,  and  the  people  on  the  other 
side  of  the  river;  but  the  people  of  Iztapan  and  those  of 
Qagoatespan  had  reassured  the  natives,  and  induced  them 
to  come  in  four  canoes  to  see  me,  and  bring  me  maize  and 
honey  and  cacao  and  a  little  gold.  They  had  sent  two 
messengers  to  three  more  villages  up  the  river,  named 
Coazacoalco,  Caltencingo,  and  Tautitan,  so  they  believed 
that  people  from  those  places  would  come  to  speak  to 
me  there  on  the  following  day.  And  so  it  happened  that 
some  seven  or  eight  canoes  came  down  the  river  the  next 
day  bringing  people  from  all  these  towns,  who  gave  me 

252  Letters  of  Cortes 

provisions  and  a  little  gold.  I  spoke  very  fully  to  them, 
trying  to  make  them  understand  that  they  were  to  be- 
lieve in  one  God  and  serve  Your  Majesty;  and  they  all 
offered  themselves  as  subjects  and  vassals  of  Your  High- 
ness, and  promised  to  obey  whatever  was  commanded 
of  them.  The  natives  of  Qagoatespan  brought  me  some 
of  their  idols,  and  in  my  presence  broke  and  burned  them, 
and  the  principal  chief,  who  until  then  had  not  appeared, 
arrived,  bringing  me  a  little  gold,  and  I  gave  them  all 
presents  of  such  as  I  had,  which  pleased  and  reassured 
them  very  much. 

There  was  some  difference  of  opinion  amongst  them 
about  the  road  I  was  to  take  to  Acalan,  for  those  of  Qa- 
goatespan  said  my  road  lay  through  the  villages  up  the 
river  and  that  they  had  caused  six  leagues  of  road  to  be 
opened  expressly  in  that  direction,  and  ordered  a  bridge 
to  be  built  over  a  certain  river  which  we  had  to  cross. 
Others  maintained  that  this  road,  besides  being  a  very 
bad  one,  was  much  longer,  and  that  the  best  and  shortest 
road  to  Acalan  was  to  cross  the  river  at  the  town  where 
we  were,  for  a  trail  existed  there  which  traders  sometimes 
took,  by  which  they  would  guide  me  as  far  as  Acalan. 
Finally  it  was  settled  amongst  them  that  this  was  the 
best  road,  so  I  sent  a  Spaniard  ahead,  with  some  natives 
of  5ag°atespan,  to  inform  the  people  of  Acalan  of  my 
coming,  and  to  reassure  them  and  calm  their  fears.  The 
messenger  was  also  to  ascertain  whether  my  people, 
who  had  been  charged  with  bringing  supplies  from  the 
brigantines,  had  arrived  or  not.  Afterwards,  I  sent  four 
other  Spaniards  by  land  with  guides  who  claimed  to 
know  the  road,  to  inspect  it,  and  see  if  there  were  any 
obstacles,  while  I  waited  for  their  answer;  after  they  left, 
I  was  obliged  to  depart  before  hearing  from  them,  so  that 
the  provisions  provided  for  the  journey  should  not  be 
exhausted,  for  I  was  told  that  we  would  march  for  five 
or  six  days  through  a  desert  country.     I  began,  therefore, 

Fifth  Letter  253 

to  prepare  canoes,  and  to  cross  the  river  which  was  suffi- 
ciently dangerous,  as  it  was  broad,  and  its  current  so  very 
strong  that  one  horse  was  drowned  and  some  of  the 
Spaniards'  baggage  was  lost.  After  crossing,  I  sent  a 
couple  of  foot  soldiers  ahead  with  guides  to  open  the 
road,  whilst  I,  with  the  others,  followed  in  the  rear;  and 
having  travelled  three  days  through  a  mountainous 
district,  covered  with  forests,  we  came  by  a  narrow  trail 
to  a  large  marsh,  more  than  five  hundred  paces  broad, 
to  cross  which  we  sought  in  vain  to  find  a  place;  but 
one  could  not  be  found,  neither  up  nor  down,  and  the 
guides  declared  that  it  was  useless  to  search  for  it  unless 
we  marched  for  twenty  days  towards  the  mountain  chain. 
This  marsh  occasioned  more  trouble  than  I  can  say, 
for  to  cross  it  seemed  impossible,  on  account  of  its  great 
size  and  of  our  having  no  canoes,  though  even  Cortes 

had  we  had  them  the  men  and  horses  and  Builds  the 
heavy  baggage  could  not  have  crossed,  for  Great  Bridge 
both  sides  were  surrounded  by  morasses,  full  of  stumps 
and  roots  of  trees,  while  to  cross  the  horses  in  any 
other  way  was  entirely  hopeless;  to  think  of  turning 
back  plainly  meant  the  destruction  of  everybody,  not 
only  on  account  of  the  bad  roads,  and  the  heavy  rain 
which  had  fallen  and  had  so  swollen  the  river  that 
the  bridge  we  had  left  was  already  destroyed,  but 
also  because  the  people  were  perfectly  exhausted,  and, 
having  consumed  our  provisions,  we  would  find  noth- 
ing to  eat;  for  we  were  numerous,  there  being,  besides 
the  Spaniards  and  the  horses,  more  than  three  thousand 
natives  with  me.  I  have  already  told  Your  Majesty  the 
difficulties  in  the  way  of  advancing,  and  that  no  man's 
brain  was  equal  to  devising  relief  if  God,  Who  is  the  true 
help  and  succour  of  all  the  afflicted,  had  not  provided  it. 
For  I  found  a  very  small  canoe,  in  which  the  Spaniards 
whom  I  had  sent  ahead  to  explore  the  road  had  crossed, 
and  with  it  I  sounded  the  marsh  and  found  it  to  be  four 

254  Letters  of  Cortes 

fathoms  deep;  so  I  had  some  lances  tied  together  to  ex- 
amine the  bottom  and  found  that,  besides  the  depth  of 
the  water,  there  were  two  fathoms  of  mud,  so  that  in  all 
there  were  six  fathoms.  Finally  I  determined  to  make 
a  bridge  over  it  and  set  about  distributing  the  work  to  be 
done,  and  the  wood  to  be  cut,  among  the  different  people : 
the  beams  were  to  be  from  nine  to  ten  fathoms  in  length 
according  to  the  part  which  would  remain  above  water. 
I  charged  the  chiefs  who  had  come  with  me  to  cut  and 
bring  a  certain  number  of  trees,  each  in  proportion  to  the 
number  of  his  people,  and  the  Spaniards  and  I,  on  rafts 
and  with  that  little  bit  of  a  canoe  and  two  others  which 
we  afterwards  found,  began  to  lay  the  timbers.  Every- 
body thought  it  was  impossible  to  complete  it,  and,  be- 
hind my  back,  some  of  them  even  said  it  would  have  been 
better  to  go  the  roundabout  way  before  the  people 
became  too  exhausted  to  be  prevented  afterwards  from 
returning,  for  in  the  end  this  work  would  never  be  fin- 
ished and  we  should  be  forced  to  go  back.  This  mur- 
muring spread  to  such  an  extent  that  they  almost  dared 
to  utter  it  to  me;  and  as  I  saw  them  so  despondent,  and 
in  truth  they  had  reason  because  of  the  character  of  the 
work  we  had  undertaken,  and  because  they  were  reduced 
to  eating  roots  and  herbs,  I  ordered  them  to  take  no  part 
in  building  the  bridge,  for  I  would  do  it  with  the  Indians. 
So  I  immediately  sent  for  all  the  chiefs  and  told  them  to 
consider  the  great  strait  to  which  we  were  reduced,  and 
that  we  were  forced  either  to  cross  or  to  perish;  hence  I 
besought  them  earnestly  to  exhort  their  people  to 
finish  that  bridge,  for,  once  across,  we  would  have 
immediately  before  us  a  large  province,  called  Acalan, 
where  there  was  abundance  of  provisions,  and  there  we 
would  rest ;  and  that  besides  the  provisions  of  the  country 
they  knew  I  had  sent  to  have  supplies  brought  from  the 
ships,  and  that  people  would  bring  them  in  canoes,  so  that 
there  we  would  have  great  abundance  of  everything. 

Fifth  Letter  255 

Besides  all  this,  I  promised  them  that,  on  our  return  to 
Medellin,  they  would  be  well  rewarded  by  me  in  Your 
Majesty's  name.  They  promised  me  that  they  would 
work  to  that  end,  and  they  divided  the  task  among  them, 
and  worked  so  hard  and  with  such  skill  that,  in  less  than 
four  days,  they  constructed  a  fine  bridge  over  which  all 
the  people  and  horses  crossed ;  and,  unless  it  is  intention- 
ally destroyed,  which  would  have  to  be  done  by  burning 
it,  it  will  last  for  more  than  ten  years,  as  more  than  one 
thousand  beams  were  used,  the  smallest  of  them  as  big 
round  as  a  man's  body,  and  from  nine  to  ten  fathoms  in 
length,  without  counting  the  smaller  number.  I  certify 
to  Your  Majesty  that  I  do  not  believe  anyone  capable 
of  describing  the  system  they  displayed  in  building  this 
bridge ;  I  can  only  say  that  it  is  the  most  wonderful  thing 
that  has  ever  been  seen. 

All  the  people  and  horses  having  crossed  to  the  other 
side  of  the  lagoon,  we  came  upon  a  great  morass,  two 
bow  shots  long,  the  most  frightful  thing  men  ever  saw, 
where  the  unsaddled  horses  sank  to  their  girths,  and  by 
their  efforts  to  get  out  only  sank  deeper,  so  that  we  de- 
spaired of  saving  any  of  them  or  crossing  ourselves;  still 
we  set  to  work,  and,  by  putting  bundles  of  herbs  and 
branches  under  them,  they  could  support  themselves 
so  as  not  to  sink  altogether,  by  which  measure  they  were 
somewhat  relieved.  Thus  we  were  engaged  going  back- 
wards and  forwards  to  the  assistance  of  the  horses,  when 
a  narrow  channel  of  water  and  mud  was  discovered  where 
the  animals  began  to  swim  and  advance  a  little,  so  that 
with  our  Lord's  help  they  all  came  out  safe  though  so 
exhausted  from  the  exertion  that  they  could  scarcely 
stand  on  their  legs.  We  gave  many  thanks  to  our  Lord 
for  His  great  mercy  extended  to  us. 

Just  then  the  Spaniards  whom  I  had  sent  to  Acalan 
arrived  with  about  eighty  Indians  from  that  province 
loaded  with  supplies  of  maize  and  birds,  which  God  knows 

256  Letters  of  Cortes 

the  rejoicing  it  caused,  especially  when  they  told  us  that 
all  the  people  were  peaceable  and  well  disposed.  With 
the  Indians  of  Acalan  there  came  two  of  their  notables 
sent  by  a  chief  of  the  province,  called  Apaspolon,  to  tell 
me  that  he  greatly  rejoiced  at  my  coming  as  many  days 
had  passed  since  he  first  heard  of  me  from  the  traders  of 
Tabasco  and  Xiculango,  and  he  would  be  glad  to  know 
me,  and  he  sent  me  some  gold  which  they  gave  me.  I 
received  them  with  pleasure  thanking  their  lord  for 
the  good  disposition  he  showed  towards  Your  Majesty's 
service;  and,  giving  them  some  small  presents  I  sent  them 
back,  very  contented,  accompanied  by  the  Spaniards 
who  had  come  with  them.  They  left  full  of  admiration 
at  beholding  the  bridge,  which  contributed  largely 
towards  the  confidence  which  afterwards  prevailed,  for, 
as  their  country  lies  among  lakes  and  swamps  they 
might  have  taken  refuge  among  them,  but,  seeing  that 
work,  they  were  convinced  that  nothing  was  impossible 
to  us. 

About  this  time,  there  also  arrived  a  messenger  from 
the  town  of  Santisteban  del  Puerto,  on  the  River  Panuco, 
bringing  me  letters  from  the  judges  of  those  parts,  and 
with  him  came  some  four  or  five  Indian  messengers  who 
brought  me  letters  from  Temixtitan,  Medellin,  and  the 
town  of  Espiritu  Santo,  from  which  I  was  much  pleased 
to  learn  that  they  were  well,  although  I  had  no  news  from 
the  factor  and  the  inspector,  for  they  had  not  yet  arrived 
at  Temixtitan. 

The  day  after  the  Indians  and  Spaniards  who  were 
going  ahead  to  Acalan  had  left,  I  started,  with  the  rest 
of  the  people,  to  follow  in  the  same  direction.  I  slept 
one  night  in  the  woods,  and  the  next  day,  a  little  after 
noon,  we  arrived  at  the  plantations  and  farms  of  the 
Province  of  Acalan,  from  which  we  were  still  separated 
by  a  large  morass,  the  crossing  of  which  gave  us  much 
trouble,  though  we  accomplished  it  by  making  a  detour 

Fifth  Letter  257 

of  about  a  league,  leading  our  horses  by  their  bridles. 
About  the  hour  of  vespers,  we  reached  the  first  village, 
called  Ticatepelt,  whose  inhabitants  we  found  living 
comfortably  in  their  houses  and  showing  no  signs  of 
fear;  they  had  plenty  of  food,  both  for  the  men  and 
horses,  so  that  we  were  completely  refreshed  and  forgot 
our  past  troubles.  We  rested  six  days,  during  which  time 
a  youth,  of  attractive  appearance  and  well  attended, 
visited  me  and  told  me  that  he  was  the  son  of  the  lord  of 
that  country;  and  he  brought  me  some  gold  and  birds, 
offering  himself  and  his  country  for  Your  Majesty's 
service,  saying  that  his  father  had  lately  died.  I  sym- 
pathised over  the  death  of  his  father,  although  I  per- 
ceived that  he  was  not  telling  me  the  truth,  and  I  gave 
him  a  collar  of  Flemish  beads  which  I  was  wearing  on 
my  neck  and  which  he  greatly  esteemed,  after  which  I 
told  him  to  leave  with  God's  blessing;  but  he  remained 
two  days  longer  of  his  own  free  will. 

One  of  the  natives  of  Ticatepelt  who  claimed  to  be  the 
chief  told  me  that  there  was  in  the  neighbourhood  another 
village,  also  belonging  to  him,  where  I  would  Human 
find  better  lodging  and  more  abundant  sup-  Sacrifices 
plies,  for  it  was  larger  and  more  populous,  and  sug- 
gested, also,  that,  if  I  went  thither,  I  would  be  more 
comfortable;  so  I  at  once  accepted  his  proposal,  and 
ordered  him  to  have  the  road  cleared  by  his  men, 
and  lodgings  prepared,  all  of  which  was  done  as  I 
wished;  and  we  went  to  that  town,  which  is  six 
leagues  from  here,  and  found  the  people  tranquil,  and  a 
certain  quarter  vacated  for  our  lodging.  It  is  a  beautiful 
town,  called  Teutiercas  by  the  natives,  and  has  very 
handsome  mosques  or  houses  for  idols  wherein  we  es- 
tablished ourselves,  throwing  out  their  gods,  at  which 
the  natives  showed  little  concern;  for  I  had  already 
spoken  to  them  and  explained  their  errors  and  that  there 
was  only  one  God,  the  Creator  of  all  things.     Afterwards 

258  Letters  of  Cortes 

I  spoke  more  fully  to  the  principal  chief  and  to  all  of 
them  together,  and  I  learned  from  them  that  the  prin- 
cipal one  of  these  two  mosques  was  dedicated  to  a  goddess 
in  whom  they  had  faith  and  hope,  and  that  they  sacrificed 
only  the  most  beautiful  virgins  to  her,  for  otherwise  she 
would  be  angry  with  them,  and  therefore  they  took  special 
care  to  search  for  such  as  would  satisfy  her;  and  they 
reared  the  most  beautiful  ones  from  childhood  for  this 
purpose.  I  spoke  of  this  horrible  cruelty  in  which  the 
devil  with  his  arts  had  taken  them,  and  I  also  told  them 
what  seemed  to  be  necessary;  and  they  appeared  to  be 

The  chief  of  the  town  showed  himself  my  great  friend 
and  held  much  conversation  with  me,  giving  me  a  full 
The  Chief  account  and  description  of  the  Spaniards,  for 
Apaspolon  whom  I  was  going  to  search,  and  the  road  I 
should  take ;  and  he  told  me  in  great  secrecy,  praying  that 
no  one  should  know  that  he  had  informed  me,  that 
Apaspolon,  lord  of  all  that  province,  was  alive,  though 
he  had  sent  to  say  that  he  was  dead ;  the  young  man  who 
came  to  see  me  was  his  son  and  had  been  sent  to  misdirect 
me  so  that  I  might  not  see  his  country  and  towns.  He 
gave  me  this  information  out  of  friendship,  and  because  of 
the  good  treatment  he  had  received  from  me, 'but  prayed 
me  that  this  should  be  kept  strictly  secret,  for,  if  it  became 
known  that  he  had  informed  me,  the  lord  would  kill  him 
and  burn  his  town.  I  thanked  him  very  much,  and  re- 
warded his  good  will  with  some  small  presents,  and  pro- 
mised to  keep  the  secret  as  he  asked  me  to  do;  I  also 
promised  him  that  as  time  went  on  he  would  be  well  re- 
warded by  me  in  Your  Majesty's  name. 

I  immediately  sent  for  the  son  of  Apaspolon  and  told 
him  that  I  marvelled  very  much  that  his  father  should 
have  refused  to  come  knowing  as  he  did  my  good  dis- 
position towards  all  of  them  and  my  wish  to  honour  them 
and  make  them  presents,  for  I  had  received  good  treat- 

Fifth  Letter  259 

ment  in  their  country  and  greatly  desired  to  repay  them ; 
but  I  knew  for  certain  that  he  was  alive  and  I  prayed 
him  to  go  and  call  him  and  to  persuade  him  to  come  and 
see  me,  for  he  might  be  sure  that  he  would  be  benefited 
by  so  doing.  The  son  told  me  that  it  was  true  he  was 
alive,  and  that  if  he  had  denied  this  to  me,  it  was  because 
he  had  been  commanded  to  do  so  by  his  father;  but  that 
he  would  go  and  endeavour  to  bring  him;  and  he  be- 
lieved that  he  would  come,  for  he  desired  to  know  me, 
feeling  sure  I  had  not  come  thither  to  harm  him,  but  on 
the  contrary  to  give  presents  to  him  and  his  people. 
He  would  have  come  before  except  that,  as  he  had  given 
himself  out  as  dead,  he  was  now  ashamed  to  appear 
before  me.  I  besought  the  youth  to  go  and  use  every 
means  to  bring  him;  and  thus  it  was  done,  and  the  next 
day  both  came.  I  received  them  with  much  pleasure, 
the  chief  excusing  himself  because  he  had  not  known 
my  disposition;  and  he  said  that  now,  having  learnt  it, 
he  desired  greatly  to  see  me,  and  that  it  was  true  he  had 
ordered  me  to  be  misdirected  away  from  his  towns,  but 
that  now  he  prayed  me  to  come  to  the  principal  one  where 
he  resided,  as  there  he  had  better  arrangements  for 
providing  me  and  my  people  with  everything  we  required. 
He  immediately  ordered  a  broad  road  to  be  opened 
thither,  and,  the  next  day,  we  left  together;  and  I  ordered 
one  of  my  horses  to  be  given  him,  on  which  he  rode  very 
happily  till  we  reached  the  town,  called  Izancanac,  which 
is  quite  large,  and  has  many  mosques,  and  is  situated  on 
the  borders  of  a  great  lagoon  which  traverses  the  country 
as  far  as  the  ports  of  Terminos,  Xicalango,  and  Tabasco; 
some  of  the  people  of  this  town  were  absent  and  others 
stopped  in  their  houses.  We  found  a  great  store  of  pro- 
visions, and  Apaspolon  remained  with  me  in  my  lodging, 
though  he  had  his  own  household  close  by.  As  long  as 
I  remained  at  Izancanac,  he  rendered  me  service,  and 
gave  me  a  lengthy  account  of  the  Spaniards  I  sought, 

260  Letters  of  Cortes 

pointing  out  to  me  on  a  drawing  of  cloth  the  road  I  ought 
to  take.  He  also  gave  me  some  gold  and  women  without 
my  asking  for  them,  and  I  declare  that  up  till  now  I  have 
never  asked  the  chiefs  of  these  parts  for  anything  unless 
they  first  offered  it.  We  had  to  cross  that  lagoon  before 
which  extended  the  large  morass;  the  chief  ordered  a 
bridge  to  be  made  over  it,  and  provided  as  many 
canoes  as  were  necessary  for  crossing  the  morass,  and 
gave  me  guides  for  the  road.  He  also  gave  me  canoes 
and  guides  to  accompany  the  Spaniards  who  had  brought 
the  letters  and  messages  from  Santisteven  del  Puerto, 
as  well  as  several  others  for  the  Indians  who  were  re- 
turning to  Mexico  and  to  the  provinces  of  Tabasco  and 
Xicalango.  I  sent  letters  again  by  these  Spaniards  to 
the  authorities  of  the  different  towns  and  the  lieutenants 
whom  I  had  left  in  this  city,  as  well  as  to  the  ships  at 
Tabasco,  and  for  the  Spaniards  who  were  to  bring  the 
provisions  instructing  each  and  every  one  of  them  what 
they  were  to  do.  Having  despatched  all  these,  I  gave 
the  chief  certain  small  presents  which  he  esteemed,  and 
leaving  him  entirely  satisfied,  and  all  the  people  reassured, 
I  left  that  province  on  the  first  Sunday  of  Lent  in  the 
year  1525. 

That  day,  we  accomplished  only  the  crossing  of  the 
lagoon,  which  was  no  small  thing.  I  gave  this  lord  a 
letter  because  he  begged  me  to  do  so,  as,  in  case  any 
Spaniards  should  come  there  later,  they  would  thus 
learn  that  I  had  passed  there  and  considered  him  my 

An  event  happened  in  this  province  which  it  is  well 
Your  Majesty  should  know.  An  honourable  citizen  of 
Death  of  Temixtitan,  by  name  Mexicalcingo,  but  now 
Quauhtem-  called  Cristobal,  came  to  me  one  night  pri- 
otzin  vately,  bringing  certain  drawings   on   a   piece 

of  the  paper  used  in  that   country,  and    explained  to 
me    what    it    meant.     He  told  me    that    Guatemucin, 

Fifth  Letter  261 

whom,  on  account  of  his  turbulent  nature,  I  hold 
a  prisoner  since  the  capture  of  this  city  (always  carry- 
ing him,  as  well  as  the  other  chiefs  and  lords  whom  I 
considered  the  cause  of  revolt  in  the  country  with  me) 
was  conspiring  against  me.  Besides  Guatemucin  there  was 
Guanacaxin,  the  King  of  Texcuco,  and  Tetepangucal, 
the  King  of  Tacuba,  and  a  certain  Tacatelz  who  had 
lived  formerly  in  Mexico  in  the  quarter  of  Tatelulco, 
who  all  had  many  times  conversed  among  themselves 
and  told  this  Mexicalcingo  how  they  had  been  dispossessed 
of  their  land  and  authority  and  were  ruled  over  by  the 
Spaniards,  and  that  it  would  be  well  to  seek  some  remedy 
so  that  they  might  recover  their  authority  and  posses- 
sions ;  and,  in  speaking  thus,  during  this  expedition,  they 
had  thought  the  best  way  would  be  to  kill  me  and  my 
people,  and  afterwards  to  call  on  the  natives  of  these 
provinces  to  rise  and  kill  Cristobal  de  Olid  and  all  his 
people.  After  that  they  would  send  their  messengers  to 
Temixtitan  to  incite  the  people  to  kill  all  the  Spaniards, 
which  thing  they  thought  could  easily  be  done  as  many 
were  newly  arrived  and  untrained  to  warfare.  After 
that,  they  would  raise  the  whole  country,  and  kill  all 
the  Spaniards  wherever  they  might  be  found,  putting 
strong  garrisons  of  natives  in  all  the  seaports  so  that  none 
might  escape,  nor  any  vessel  coming  from  Castile  take 
back  the  news.  By  these  means,  they  would  rule  again 
as  before,  and  they  had  already  distributed  the  different 
provinces  amongst  themselves,  giving  one  to  this  same 
Mexicalcingo.  I  gave  many  thanks  to  our  Lord  for 
having  revealed  this  treachery  to  me,  and,  at  daybreak, 
I  imprisoned  all  those  lords,  each  one  by  himself,  and 
then  inquired  of  them  one  by  one  about  the  plot;  and 
to  each  I  said  that  the  others  had  told  it  to  me  (for  they 
could  not  speak  with  one  another).  Thus  they  were  all 
constrained  to  confess  that  it  was  true  that  Guatemucin 
and   Tetepanguecal  had   invented   the   plot,    and   that, 

262  Letters  of  Cortes 

though  the  others  had  heard  it,  they  had  never  consented 
to  take  part. 1  These  two,  therefore,  were  hanged,  and 
I  set  the  others  free  because  it  appeared  they  were  to 
blame  for  nothing  more  than  having  listened  to  it,  although 

*  The  Indian  version  of  Quauhtemotzin's  execution,  given  by  Tor- 
quemada,  who  copied  it  from  a  Mexican  MS.,  is  quite  different  from 
the  one  Cortes  gives  the  Emperor.  Cohuanocox,  King  of  Texcoco, 
spoke  privately  at  Izancanac  with  his  fellow  prisoners,  saying  that 
were  their  people  not  what  they  were,  their  Kings  would  not  be  so 
easily  reduced  to  slavery  and  marched  about  behind  the  Spanish 
commander,  and  that  it  would  in  reality  be  easy  enough  to  repay 
Cortes  for  burning  Quauhtemotzin's  feet.  At  this  point  the  others 
stopped  him,  but  a  Mexican,  who  is  called  Mexicalcin  by  early  writers 
and  was  baptised  as  Christopher  had  overheard  and  reported  the 
words  to  Cortes,  who,  without  more  ado  hanged  the  three  Princes 
that  night  on  a  Ceiba  tree.  Torquemada  expresses  the  opinion  that 
Cortes  was  weary  of  guarding  the  royal  captives,  and  yet  dared  not 
free  them,  and  was  glad  to  use  the  first  pretext  to  kill  them. 

Bernal  Diaz  states  that  both  Quauhtemotzin  and  Tetepanquezatl 
protested  their  entire  innocence,  and  that  all  the  Spaniards  disap- 
proved of  the  execution. 

Cortes  dared  much,  and  there  was  little  articulate  public  opinion 
in  Mexico  whose  voice  he  could  not  control,  but  it  is  doubtful  if  he 
would  have  dared  to  hang  the  last  three  Kings  on  such  vague  charges 
reported  by  a  camp  servant,  with  all  Mexico  looking  on.  This,  the 
blackest  deed  of  his  life,  was  done  in  an  obscure  part  of  a  remote 

It  were  not  strange  that  the  royal  captives  should  have  talked  of 
their  misfortunes  and  sufferings,  when  they  thought  they  were  alone, 
or  have  discussed  how  it  all  might  have  been  prevented,  or  even  re- 
paired, but  it  is  a  far  cry  from  such  communings  over  their  camp-fire 
to  the  organisation  of  a  plot  to  kill  their  captor  and  raise  a  general 
insurrection  against  the  Spaniards.  There  seems  no  discoverable 
justification  for  this  barbarous  and  treacherous  act.  It  needed  no 
gift  of  prophecy  for  Quauhtemotzin  to  foresee  his  fate  when  he  fell 
into  Cortes's  hands,  and  the  choice  he  then  expressed  for  immediate 
death  proved  that  he  cherished  no  illusions  as  to  what  the  future  held 
for  him.  Prescott,  in  describing  the  inglorious  end  of  the  last  Aztec 
Emperor,  says:  "might  we  not  rather  call  him  the  last  of  the  Aztecs, 
since  from  this  time,  broken  in  spirit  and  without  a  head,  the  remnant 
of  the  nation  resigned  itself  almost  without  a  struggle  to  the  stern 
yoke  of  its  oppressors  ? " 

It  is  said  that  Cortes  was  disquieted  in  his  conscience  after  this 
"execution,"  and  for  a  long  time  could  not  sleep.  The  murdered 
captives   were:    Quauhtemotzin,    Emperor   of   Mexico;    Cohuanacox; 

Fifth  Letter  263 

this  alone  was  sufficient  for  them  to  deserve  death;  their 
case,  however,  remains  open  so  that  at  any  time  they 
relapse  they  may  be  punished  accordingly,  though  it  is 
not  probable  that  they  will  again  conspire,  for  they 
think  that  I  discovered  this  by  some  magic,  and  that 
nothing  can  be  hidden  from  me;  for  they  have  noticed 
that  to  direct  the  making  of  the  road  I  often  consult  the 
map  and  the  compass,  especially  when  the  road  approaches 
the  sea,  and  they  have  often  said  to  the  Spaniards  that 
they  believed  I  learnt  it  by  that  compass;  also  they 
have  sometimes  said,  wishing  to  assure  me  of  their  good 
disposition,  that  I  might  know  their  honest  intentions  by 
looking  into  the  glass  and  on  the  map,  and  that  there  I 
would  see  their  sincerity  since  I  knew  everything  by  this 
means.  I  also  allowed  them  to  think  that  this  was  true. 
This  province  of  Acalan  is  very  large,  and  well  popu- 
lated ;  many  of  its  towns  were  visited  by  my  Spaniards.  It 
abounds  in  honey  and  other  products  and  there  are  many 
merchants  who  trade  in  different  places  and  who  are  rich 
in  slaves  and  merchandise.  It  is  completely  surrounded 
by  lagoons,  all  of  which  extend  to  the  bay  and  port 
called  Los  Terminos,  by  means  of  which  they  carry  on  a 
considerable  trade  by  water  with  Xiculango  and  Tabasco. 
It  is  believed,  also,  though  the  exact  truth  is  not  known, 
that  the  lagoons  extend  to  the  other  sea,  thus  making  the 
country  known  as  Yucatan  an  island :  I  shall  endeavour  to 
ascertain  the  secret  of  this  so  as  to  inform  Your  Majesty 
truthfully  about  it.     According  to  what  I  learn,  they 

King  of  Texcoco;  Tetlepanquetzal,  King  of  Tlacopan;  Oquizi, 
King  of  Atzcapotzalco ;  Vehichilzi,  brother  of  Quauhtemotzin  and 
King  of  Michuacan;  and  the  two  Indian  Generals,  Xihmocoatl  and 
Tlacatle.  Humboldt  (Essai  Polity  lib.  iii.,  cap.  viii.)  describes  an 
Indian  picture-writing,  representing  the  hanging  of  these  prisoners 
by  their  feet  to  prolong  their  sufferings,  which  he  saw  in  Mexico. 

Quauhtemotzin's  widow,  Princess  Tecuichpo,  who  was  a  daughter 
of  Montezuma,  had  already  had  one  husband,  Cuitlahuatzin,  and, 
afterwards  married  successively  three   different   Spaniards. 

264  Letters  of  Cortes 

have  no  other  lord  save  this  Apaspolon,  whom  I  have 
mentioned  above  to  Your  Majesty,  and  he  is  the  richest 
trader  and  has  the  greatest  shipping  traffic  of  anybody. 
His  commerce  is  very  extensive,  and  at  Nito,  a  town 
of  which  I  will  hereafter  speak,  and  where  I  met  the 
Spaniards  of  Gil  Gonzales  de  Avila's  party,  there  is  an 
entire  quarter  peopled  with  his  agents  under  command 
of  one  of  his  brothers.  The  chief  articles  of  merchandise 
in  those  provinces  are  cacao,  cotton  cloth,  colours  for 
dyeing,  and  a  kind  of  stain  with  which  they  smear  their 
bodies  to  protect  them  against  heat  and  cold;  tar  for 
lighting  purposes,  resine  from  pines  for  the  incensing 
of  their  idols,  slaves,  and  certain  red  beads  of  shells  which 
they  greatly  esteem  for  ornamenting  their  persons  in 
their  feasts  and  festivities;  they  trade  in  some  gold,  which 
is  mixed  with  copper  and  other  alloys. 

To  this  Apaspolon,  as  well  as  to  other  notable  persons 
of  the  province  who  came  to  see  me,  I  spoke  as  I  had  to 
all  the  others  on  the  road  respecting  their  idols  and  what 
they  ought  to  do  to  save  their  souls,  and  to  what  they 
were  bound  in  Your  Majesty's  service.  They  appeared 
to  accept  what  I  said  with  satisfaction,  and  they  burned 
many  of  their  idols  in  my  presence,  saying  that  hence- 
forth they  would  no  longer  honour  them,  and  promising 
that  they  would  obey  everything  commanded  of  them 
in  Your  Majesty's  name;  upon  which  I  took  my  leave 
of  them  and  departed  as  I  have  said  above. 

Three  days  before  leaving  this  province  of  Acalan, 
I  sent  ahead  four  Spaniards,  with  two  guides  whom  the 
chief  had  given  me,  to  explore  the  road  to  the  province 
of  Mazatlan,  which  in  their  language  is  called  Quiacho. 
They  had  told  me  that  for  four  days  I  would  have  to 
cross  the  deserted  country,  sleeping  in  the  forest,  so  I 
ordered  the  men  to  inspect  the  country  well,  and  see  if 
there  were  any  rivers  or  swamps  to  cross;  and  at  the 
same  time  I  directed  that  my  people  should  take  supplies 

Fifth  Letter  265 

for  six  days  so  as  not  to  be  again  in  such  another  strait 
as  before.  There  being  an  abundance  of  everything,  this 
was  done,  and,  five  leagues  beyond  a  certain  lagoon  which 
we  crossed,  I  met  the  four  Spaniards  who  had  explored 
the  road  with  the  guides;  and  they  told  me  they  had 
found  a  very  good  road,  which,  although  it  led  through 
the  heart  of  the  forest,  was  level  and  without  rivers  or 
swamps  to  obstruct  us,  and  that,  without  being  seen 
themselves,  they  had  reconnoitred  some  villages  where 
they  had  seen  people,  and  had  then  returned.  I  rejoiced 
greatly  at  this  news,  and  sent  six  active  foot  soldiers 
ahead  with  some  Indians,  our  friends,  to  keep  always  a 
league  in  advance  of  those  who  were  opening  the  road, 
with  orders  that  if  they  should  meet  any  traveller,  to 
seize  him  so  that  we  might  arrive  in  the  provinces  un- 
expected, for  I  wished  to  prevent  the  people  from  burning 
and  deserting  their  towns  as  those  before  them  had  done. 

That  day,  they  found  two  Indians,  natives  of  Acalan, 
near  a  lake,  who  said  they  were  coming  from  Mazatlan 
where  they  had  traded  salt  for  cotton  clothing,  which 
indeed  appeared,  in  a  measure,  to  be  true,  for  they  were 
loaded  with  clothing.  When  brought  before  me,  and 
asked  if  the  people  of  that  province  knew  about  my  com- 
ing, they  answered  no,  saying  that  they  were  all  perfectly 
quiet;  so  I  told  them  they  must  return  with  me,  and  not 
to  be  disturbed  as  they  would  lose  nothing  of  what  they 
carried,  but  that,  on  the  contrary,  I  would  give  them 
more,  and  that  upon  our  arrival  at  that  province  they 
might  return,  for  I  was  a  great  friend  of  all  the  natives 
of  Acalan,  and  had  received  great  kindness  from  its  lord 
and  people.  They  were  quite  willing  to  do  this,  and 
returned,  guiding  us  by  another  road  than  the  one  first 
opened  by  my  Spaniards,  which  led  only  to  some  plan- 
tations, whereas  theirs  led  directly  to  the  towns. 

We  passed  that  night  in  the  forest,  and,  the  next  day, 
the  Spaniards  who  went  ahead  as  scouts  met  four  natives 

266  Letters  of  Cortes 

of  Mazatlan,  with  their  bows  and  arrows,  who  were  ap- 
parently sentries  on  the  road,  and  who,  on  the  approach 
of  our  people,  wounded  one  of  our  men  with  their  arrows, 
after  which  they  fled,  and,  the  forest  being  so  dense, 
only  one  was  captured;  this  one  was  given  in  charge 
to  three  of  my  Indians,  and  the  Spaniards  ran  on  be- 
lieving that  there  were  more  of  them;  but,  no  sooner  had 
the  Spaniards  gone,  than  the  fugitives,  who,  as  it  appeared, 
had  concealed  themselves  close  by,  returned,  and  fell 
upon  our  Indian  friends  who  held  their  companion  a 
prisoner,  and,  fighting  with  them,  they  liberated  him. 
Mortified  by  this,  our  Indiars  pursued  their  enemies 
through  the  forest,  and,  having  overtaken  them,  they 
fought  with  them,  and  wounded  one  by  a  great  gash  in 
the  arm,  taking  him  prisoner,  while  the  others  escaped, 
for  they  perceived  that  some  of  our  people  were  coming 
up.  I  asked  this  Indian  if  his  countrymen  knew  of  my 
coming,  and  he  answered  that  they  did  not;  I  then  asked 
why  he  and  his  companions  had  been  there  as  sentries, 
and  he  answered  that  this  was  their  custom,  for  they 
were  at  war  with  some  of  their  neighbours,  and,  to 
protect  their  farms,  the  lord  had  ordered  sentinels  always 
to  be  kept  on  the  road  to  forestall  any  surprise.  Having 
learnt  from  him  that  the  first  village  of  that  province 
was  near  at  hand,  I  made  all  possible  haste  to  arrive 
there  before  any  of  his  companions  who  had  fled  should 
give  the  alarm,  and  I  ordered  those  of  my  people  who 
went  ahead  to  stop  as  soon  as  they  came  in  sight  of  the 
plantations  and  to  hide  themselves  in  the  forest  until  I 

When  I  came  to  the  place,  it  was  already  late,  so  I 
made  haste,  thinking  we  might  reach  the  town  that  night, 
but,  perceiving  that  our  baggage  train  was  somewhat 
scattered,  I  ordered  a  captain,  with  twenty  horsemen, 
to  remain  at  the  plantations  and  collect  the  bearers  as 
they  came  up,  and,  after  sleeping  there  with  them,  to 

Fifth  Letter  267 

follow  my  trail.  I  took  a  narrow  path  through  the 
forest  which  was  level  and  straight  enough,  but  through 
such  a  dense  growth  that  I  walked  leading  my  horse; 
and  all  my  people  followed  me,  one  behind  the  other,  in 
like  manner.  We  marched  in  this  wise  until  nightfall, 
when  we  were  stopped  by  a  morass  which  could  not  be 
traversed  without  first  making  some  preparations;  seeing 
which,  I  gave  orders  which  were  passed  from  one  man  to 
the  other  to  return  to  a  small  cabin  we  had  passed  in  the 
evening,  and  there  we  spent  the  night,  though  neither 
we  nor  the  horses  had  any  water. 

The  next  morning,  after  preparing  the  morass  with 
branches  of  trees  so  as  to  pass  it,  we  crossed,  though 
with  much  difficulty,  leading  our  horses,  and,  three 
leagues  beyond  the  place  where  we  had  passed  the  night, 
we  beheld  a  town  built  upon  a  hill.  Thinking  that  we 
had  not  been  seen,  I  approached  it  with  caution,  and 
found  it  was  so  completely  closed  round  that  we  could 
discover  no  entrance.  At  last  we  discovered  one,  but 
found  the  town  abandoned,  though  full  of  provisions 
of  all  kinds,  such  as  maize,  fowls,  honey,  beans,  and  other 
products  of  the  country,  for,  as  the  inhabitants  were 
taken  by  surprise,  they  had  no  time  to  carry  off  their 
provisions  which,  as  it  was  a  fortified  town,  were  very 
plentiful.  The  town  is  situated  upon  a  lofty  rock,  having 
a  great  lake  on  one  side  and  on  the  other  a  deep  stream 
which  empties  into  the  lake;  there  is  but  one  accessible 
entrance,  and  all  is  surrounded  by  a  deep  moat  behind 
which  there  is  a  palisade,  breast  high;  and  beyond  this 
palisade  there  is  an  enclosure  of  very  thick  planks,  two 
fathoms  high,  with  loop-holes  at  all  points  from  which 
to  shoot  arrows;  its  watch  towers  rise  seven  or  eight 
feet  higher  than  the  said  wall,  which  was  also  provided 
with  towers,  on  the  top  of  which  were  many  stones  with 
which  to  fight  from  above.  All  the  houses  of  the  town 
had  loop-holes  and  were  fortified,  while  the  streets  were 

268  Letters  of  Cortes 

provided  in  the  best  possible  manner;  I  speak  with 
reference  to  the  kind  of  arms  with  which  they  fight. 

I  sent  some  of  the  natives  to  search  for  the  inhabitants 
of  the  town,  and  they  brought  me  two  or  three  whom  I 
Arrival  then  sent,  accompanied  by  one  of  those  traders 
at  Tiac  from  Acalan  whom  I  had  captured  on  the  road, 
to  rind  the  chief,  and  to  tell  him  in  my  name  not  to  be 
frightened ;  for  I  had  not  come  to  do  him  or  his  people  any 
harm,  but  rather  to  help  him  in  the  wars  he  was  carrying 
on,  so  as  to  leave  him  and  his  country  in  a  state  of  peace 
and  security.  Two  days  later,  the  messengers  returned, 
bringing  with  them  an  uncle  of  the  lord  of  the  country 
who  was  governing  during  his  nephew's  minority;  the 
lord  himself  did  not  come,  for  he  said  he  was  afraid,  but 
I  spoke  to  the  uncle  and  reassured  him,  after  which  he 
escorted  me  to  another  village  of  the  same  province, 
seven  leagues  further  on,  called  Tiac,  which  was  much 
larger  than  the  former  and  equally  well  fortified,  though 
not  so  strong  since  it  was  situated  in  a  plain.  Like  the 
other  town,  it  had  strong  palisades,  a  deep  moat,  and 
watch  towers,  and  each  of  the  three  quarters  into  which 
it  was  divided  had  its  own  fortifications,  while  the  whole 
was  encircled  by  an  outer  wall  stronger  than  the  others. 
I  had  sent  to  this  village  two  companies  of  cavalry  and 
one  of  foot  soldiers  each  under  a  captain,  but  upon  their 
arrival  they  found  it  entirely  deserted,  though  full  of 
provisions ;  my  men,  however,  managed  to  capture  seven 
or  eight  natives  near  by,  some  of  whom  they  had  set  at 
liberty  so  that  they  might  go  and  speak  to  their  chief, 
and  tranquillise  the  people.  They  succeeded  so  well  in 
this  that,  before  my  arrival  at  the  place,  its  chief  had 
already  sent  messengers  with  a  present  of  provisions  and 
cotton  clothing. 

After  I  arrived,  the  natives  returned  at  two  different 
times  to  bring  us  food  and  to  speak  with  us,  not  only 
on  the  part  of  the  lord  of  this  town,  but  also  on  behalf 

Fifth  Letter  269 

of  five  or  six  others  in  this  province,  each  of  whom  was 
independent,  and  everyone  of  whom  offered  himself  as 
vassal  of  Your  Majesty  and  our  friend,  though  I  never 
could  induce  those  lords  to  come  and  see  me.  As  I  had 
no  time  to  waste,  I  sent  them  word  that  I  received  them 
in  Your  Highness 's  name  and  asked  them  to  furnish 
me  guides  for  my  journey;  this  they  did  very  willingly, 
giving  me  one  who  not  only  knew  the  country  as  far  as 
the  town  where  the  Spaniards  were  whom  I  came  to 
search  for,  but  had  also  seen  them.  Thereupon  I  left 
the  town  of  Tiac,  sleeping  that  night  at  another,  called 
Yasuncabil,  which  is  the  last  in  the  province;  this  was 
surrounded  by  palisades,  as  the  other  two,  but  deserted. 
We  found  there  a  most  beautiful  house  of  the  chief  built 
entirely  of  straw.  We  provided  ourselves  there  with 
everything  required  for  the  march,  for  the  guide  told 
us  we  had  five  days'  journey  in  the  desert  before  reaching 
the  Province  of  Taiza  which  we  had  to  traverse;  and  it 
turned  out  that  this  was  true. 

In  this  Province  of  Mazatlan,  or  Quiatcho  as  it  is  called, 
I  dismissed  the  two  traders  whom  I  had  stopped  on  the 
road,  as  well  as  the  guides  from  Acalan,  giving  them  some 
presents,  both  for  themselves,  and  for  their  chief,  so 
they  went  off  very  contented.  I  also  dismissed  to  his 
home  the  chief  of  the  first  town  who  had  come  with  me, 
giving  him  some  of  his  women  who  had  been  captured 
in  the  forest;  I  also  gave  him  some  other  small  presents 
at  which  he  was  much  pleased. 

Having  left  the  Province  of  Mazatlan,  I  continued  my 
march  towards  that  of  Taiza  sleeping  four  nights  on  the 
road  in  that  deserted  country.  My  way  led  Cortes  Ar- 
over  high  and  rocky  mountains,  and  I  had  to  rives  at 
cross  a  dangerous  pass  of  which  all  the  rocks  Peten"Itza 
were  of  very  fine  alabaster,  hence  I  named  it  Puerto  del 
Alabastro.  On  the  fifth  day,  the  scouts  who  went  ahead 
with  the  guides  discovered  a  great  lake  which  seemed  to 

270  Letters  of  Cortes 

be  an  arm  of  the  sea  and  so  large  and  deep  is  it  that,  al- 
though its  waters  are  fresh,  I  even  believe  that  it  is  so.1 
On  a  small  island  in  this  lake  there  stood  a  town  which 
the  guides  said  was  the  chief  one  of  the  Province  of  Taiza 
and  that  if  we  wished  to  reach  it  we  could  do  so  only  in  ca- 
noes; hearing  this  the  Spaniards  remained  there  keeping 
watch  while  one  returned  to  report  to  me  what  had  hap- 
pened. I  halted  the  people,  and  went  ahead  on  foot  to  see 
that  lake  and  its  situation,  and,  upon  arriving  at  that  place, 
I  found  my  scouts  had  succeeded  in  capturing  an  Indian, 
belonging  to  the  town  on  the  island,  who,  carrying  arms, 
had  come  in  a  very  small  canoe  to  reconnoitre  the  road; 
and  though  taken  by  surprise  he  would  have  escaped  had 
not  one  of  our  dogs  overtaken  him  before  he  could  spring 
into  the  water.  I  learned  from  this  Indian  that  his 
countrymen  knew  nothing  about  my  arrival.  I  asked 
him  whether  there  was  any  way  to  reach  the  town  on  the 
island,  and  he  answered  that  there  was  none,  but  that 
not  far  distant  there  was  a  narrow  arm  of  the  lake  on  the 
other  side  of  which  were  some  plantations  and  houses, 
and  that,  if  we  succeeded  in  reaching  there  without  being 
seen,  we  were  sure  to  find  canoes.  I  immediately  sent 
to  order  the  people  to  follow  me,  and,  accompanied  by 
ten  or  twelve  crossbowmen,  I  went  on  foot  with  the  In- 
dian and  crossed  a  great  stretch  of  swamp  up  to  our 
waists  in  water,  and  sometimes  even  higher.  In  this 
manner,  we  reached  the  plantations,  bu1,  as  the  road 
was  bad,  and  we  could  not  always  conceal  ourselves,  we 
had  already  been  seen  and  when  we  got  there  the  in- 
habitants were  hastily  taking  to  their  canoes  on  the  lake 

I  marched  along  the  shores  for  about  two  thirds  of  a 

1  This  lake,  some  twelve  leagues  in  length,  was  called  by  the 
natives  Hohuken  meaning  "the  mighty  drinker,"  and  is  now  known 
as  Peten-Itza.  Peten  meaning  lake,  and  Itza  being  the  name  of  a 
Maya  tribe.  Needless  to  add  that  Cortes  was  wrong  in  thinking  it 
was  joined  to  the  ocean. 

Fifth  Letter  271 

league,  passing  plantations  and  houses;  but  everywhere 
we  had  been  detected  and  the  inhabitants  were  escaping 
in  their  canoes.  It  was  already  late,  and  I  considered 
it  useless  to  follow  them,  so  I  ordered  my  people  to  halt 
and  camp  at  those  plantations,  taking  the  best  pre- 
cautions possible;  for  the  guide  of  Mazatlan  told  me  the 
people  were  numerous  and  warlike  and  much  feared  by 
all  their  neighbours.  The  guide  then  offered  to  go  in 
that  little  canoe  in  which  the  Indian  had  come,  and  cross 
to  that  town  on  the  island,  a  good  two  leagues  distant 
where  he  would  speak  to  the  lord,  whom  he  knew 
very  well,  and  who  is  called  Canec,  telling  him  my 
intentions  and  the  reason  of  my  coming  to  his  country, 
with  which  he  himself  was  perfectly  acquainted  as  he  had 
accompanied  me.  He  believed  that  the  chief  would  be 
perfectly  reassured  and  would  believe  what  he  told  him, 
for  he  was  well  known  to  him  and  had  often  been  in  his 
house.  I  immediately  gave  him  the  canoe  belonging 
to  the  Indian  who  had  come  in  it,  and,  thanking  him  for 
his  offer,  I  promised  that  if  he  carried  it  out  successfully 
I  would  reward  him  to  his  entire  satisfaction;  and  thus 
he  went,  and  returned  at  midnight  bringing  with  him 
two  distinguished  persons  of  the  town  who  said  they 
were  sent  by  their  lord  to  see  me,  and  to  inform  them- 
selves about  what  my  messenger  had  said,  and  to  learn 
what  I  wished.  I  received  them  very  well,  and  made 
them  some  small  presents,  telling  them  that  I  had  come 
to  those  countries  by  order  of  Your  Majesty  for  the  pur- 
pose of  seeing  them,  and  to  acquaint  the  lords  and  chiefs 
of  the  land  with  matters  touching  Your  Royal  service 
and  their  own  welfare;  that  I  desired  them  to  tell  their 
lord  to  come  and  see  me  without  fear,  and  proposed  that, 
if  he  hesitated,  one  of  my  Spaniards  should  go  to  the 
island  as  a  hostage  during  the  time  their  chief  was  with 
me.  They  took  back  this  message,  accompanied  by  the 
guide,  and  one  of  thaniare  Spds;  and,  the  next  day,  the 

272  Letters  of  Cortes 

chief,  himself,  escorted  by  about  thirty  men  in  five  or 
six  canoes  came  bringing  with  him  the  Spaniard  I  had 
given  as  a  hostage.  He  seemed  much  pleased  at  meeting 
me,  and  I  received  him  very  well. 

As  it  was  the  hour  of  mass  when  he  arrived,  I  ordered 
it  sung  with  great  solemnity,  accompanied  by  clarions 
and  sackbuts  to  which  he  listened  with  great  attention, 
observing  all  the  ceremonies;  and,  when  mass  was  finished, 
one  of  the  Franciscan  friars  whom  I  had  with  me,  preached 
a  sermon  which  was  translated  by  the  interpreter  so  that 
he  could  easily  understand,  touching  the  matters  of  our 
Faith,  and  giving  him  to  understand  with  many  argu- 
ments how  there  was  but  one  God,  and  the  error  of  his 
sect.  The  chief  displayed  much  satisfaction,  and  de- 
clared that  he  wished  to  destroy  his  idols  immediately, 
and  to  believe  in  that  God  of  whom  we  had  spoken,  and 
that  he  desired  to  know  how  he  was  to  serve  and  honour 
Him,  and  that  if  I  wished  to  come  to  his  town  I  should 
see  that  he  would  burn  the  idols  in  my  presence;  and  he 
desired  that  I  should  leave  a  cross  in  his  town,  as  he  had 
been  told  I  had  left  one  in  all  the  towns  through  which 
I  passed. 

After  this  sermon,  I  again  spoke  to  him,  explaining 
Your  Majesty's  greatness  and  how  he  and  all  living 
creatures  were  the  natural  subjects  and  vassals  of  Your 
Imperial  Highness,  and  bound  to  your  service;  that  to 
those  who  did  so  Your  Majesty  granted  all  manner  of 
favours  which  I,  in  Your  Royal  name,  had  dispensed 
to  all  those  who  had  offered  themselves  to  Your  Royal 
service  and  placed  themselves  under  Your  Royal  rule; 
I  promised  the  same  or  greater  to  him.  He  answered 
that,  until  then,  he  had  never  recognised  anyone  as  su- 
perior, nor  had  he  known  that  there  was  any  such  one; 
that  it  was  true  that  some  five  or  six  years  ago  some 
people  from  Tabasco  passing  through  his  country  had 
told  him  how  a  captain  with  certain  people  of  our  nation 

Fifth  Letter  273 

had  been  there  and  vanquished  them  in  three  battles, 
after  which  they  had  been  told  that  they  must  become 
vassals  of  a  great  lord  and  many  other  things  like  what 
I  was  now  telling  him.  He  wanted  to  know  therefore 
whether  it  was  all  one  and  the  same  thing.  I  answered 
him  that  I  was  the  captain  of  whom  the  people  of  Ta- 
basco had  spoken  as  having  fought  with  them  in  their 
country,  of  which  he  might  assure  himself  from  the  inter- 
preter with  whom  he  was  speaking,  who  is  Marina  whom 
I  have  always  had  with  me  since  she  was  presented  to 
me  with  twenty  other  women.  She  explained  every- 
thing to  him  and  how  I  had  conquered  Mexico,  and  told 
him  of  all  the  countries  I  had  subjected  and  placed  under 
the  Empire  of  Your  Majesty.  He  rejoiced  greatly  on  learn- 
ing this  and  said  he  desired  to  become  a  subject  and 
vassal  of  Your  Majesty,  considering  it  a  joy  to  be  under 
so  great  a  lord  as  I  told  him  Your  Highness  was.  He 
ordered  birds,  honey,  and  some  gold,  and  beads  made 
of  red  shells,  which  they  highly  prize,  to  be  brought,  and 
these  he  offered  to  me  as  a  present,  while  I  in  return 
gave  him  some  things  I  had  brought  with  me,  which  he 
received  with  great  pleasure. 

After  having  dined  with  me,  I  explained  how  I  came 
in  search  of  those  Spaniards  who  were  on  the  sea  coast, 
and  who  belonged  to  my  company,  and  had  been  sent 
thither  by  me;  and  that  many  days  had  passed  without 
news  from  them,  and  hence  I  came  to  seek  them;  and  I 
besought  him  to  tell  me  if  he  had  any  news  of  them.  He 
answered  that  he  knew  a  great  deal  about  them,  because, 
not  far  from  the  place  where  they  were,  he  had  certain 
vassals  who  worked  the  plantations  of  cacao,  for  that 
country  was  favourable  to  its  growth;  from  them,  and 
from  many  other  traders  who  daily  went  to  and  fro,  he 
constantly  received  news  about  them,  and  would  give 
me  a  guide  to  take  me  to  where  they  were.  He  told  me, 
however,  that  the  road  was  very  rough,  the  mountains 

VOL.  II— 18 

274  Letters  of  Cortes 

very  high  and  rocky,  and  that  it  would  be  less  fatiguing 
to  go  by  sea.  I  replied  that  he  could  see  for  himself 
that,  on  account  of  the  numerous  people  and  baggage 
and  horses  I  had,  there  would  not  be  sufficient  boats,  and 
therefore  I  was  compelled  to  go  by  land;  I  asked  him, 
however,  to  give  me  the  means  of  crossing  that  lake, 
to  which  he  replied  that,  about  three  leagues  from  the 
place  where  we  were,  the  lake  became  shallow,  and,  by 
skirting  it,  I  could  reach  the  road  opposite  his  village; 
but  he  begged  me  that,  as  my  people  were  coming  round 
the  lake,  I  would  accompany  him  in  his  canoe  to  visit 
his  town  and  house  where  he  wished  to  burn  the  idols 
and  have  a  cross  made  for  him.  To  please  him,  although 
it  was  against  the  will  of  my  people,  I  embarked,  with 
about  twenty  of  my  men,  most  of  them  archers,  in  his 
canoe  and  went  to  his  town  with  him,  where  I  spent  the 
rest  of  the  day  in  festivity.  At  nightfall,  I  took  leave 
of  him,  and  he  gave  me  a  guide  with  whom  I  entered 
the  canoe  and  returned  to  sleep  on  land,  where  I  met 
many  of  my  people  who  had  come  round  the  lake  to  a 
place  where  we  passed  the  night.  In  this  town,  or  rather 
at  the  plantations,  I  left  a  horse  which  got  a  splinter  in 
his  foot  and  was  unable  to  go  on;  the  chief  promised  to 
cure  it  but  I  do  not  know  what  he  will  do  with  him. l 
The    next    day,    collecting    my   people,    I    set    out, 

i  The  fate  of  this  animal  was  indeed  a  strange  one.  Villagutierra 
(in  his  Hist,  de  la  Conquista  del  Itza)  relates  that  some  Franciscan 
monks  who  visited  Peten-Itza  in  1697,  with  Don  Martin  Ursua,  landed 
with  the  intention  of  building  a  church  on  the  island,  and  found  there 
a  large  temple  in  which  stood  the  image  of  a  horse  very  well  carved  in 
stone.  They  discovered  that  Cortes's  lame  horse  became  an  object 
of  great  veneration  to  the  natives  who  fed  him  on  flowers,  birds,  and 
similar  delicacies  with  the  natural  result  that  the  poor  animal  starved 
to  death,  after  which  he  was  ranked  amongst  the  native  deities  and 
worshipped  under  the  title  of  T ziminchak ,  god  of  thunder  and  lightning. 
It  would  appear  from  this  that  the  Christian  doctrines  had  not 
been  so  clearly  understood  by  the  chief  and  his  people  as  Cortes 

Fifth  Letter  275 

accompanied  by  the  guides,  and,  about  a  half  a  league 
from  our  camping  place,  I  came  upon  a  small  plain 
where  there  were  some  huts,  beyond  which  Departure 
was  a  small  forest  extending  for  about  a  league  from 

and  a  half ;  after  which  we  again  reached  some  Peten-itza 
beautiful  plains,  covered  with  grass,  from  which  point 
I  sent  ahead  some  horsemen  and  foot  soldiers  with 
orders  to  stop  and  seize  any  natives  they  might  find 
on  their  way,  for  the  guides  had  told  us  we  would 
arrive  near  a  village  that  same  night.  We  found  these 
I  plains  abounding  in  deer,  so  we  hunted  all  that  day  on 
horseback,  and  speared  eighteen  of  them,  though,  owing 
to  the  heat  and  the  fact  that  our  horses  were  in  bad  con- 
dition from  the  previous  journey  through  mountainous 
and  swampy  districts,  two  of  them  died,  and  many  others 
were  in  great  danger.  Our  hunting  finished,  we  con- 
tinued our  route,  and,  after  a  little  while,  I  met  some  of 
the  scouts  ahead  who  had  captured  four  Indian  hunters, 
these  latter  having  just  killed  a  lion  and  some  iguanas, 
a  species  of  large  lizard  which  are  common  in  the  island 
[lucerta  eguana].  I  learned  from  the  hunters  that  their 
townsmen  knew  nothing  about  me,  and  they  then  pointed 
out  to  me  the  plantations  from  which  they  came,  which 
were  visible  about  one  league  and  a  half  from  where  we 
were.  I  hastened  thither,  thinking  I  might  arrive  with- 
out difficulty,  but,  just  as  I  thought  I  was  about  to  enter 
the  village,  and  could  see  the  people  moving  about  in  it, 
we  came  upon  a  large  lagoon  which  seemed  to  me  very 
deep,  and  so  I  was  delayed.  I  called  to  the  Indians,  and 
two  of  them  came  in  a  canoe,  bringing  about  a  dozen 
chickens,  and  approaching  very  near  to  where  I  was  on 
horseback,  standing  in  water  up  to  the  girths;  but,  al- 
though I  remained  talking  with  them  quite  a  while,  and 
trying  to  persuade  them  to  approach  the  shore,  they 
were  afraid  to  do  this,  but  rather  retreated,  and  began 
to  withdraw  in  their  canoes  to  their  town.    The  Spaniard 

276  Letters  of  Cortes 

who  was  on  horseback  by  my  side  spurred  his  horse 
through  the  waters  and  swam  after  them,  which  so 
frightened  them  that  they  abandoned  their  canoes,  upon 
which  some  foot  soldiers  swam  quickly  after  them  and 
captured  them.  All  the  people  we  had  seen  in  the  town 
had  completely  deserted  it.  I  asked  those  Indians  where 
we  could  cross,  and  they  showed  me  a  road  where,  by  a 
roundabout  march  of  about  a  league,  we  would  find  a 
passage;  so  that  we  went  that  night  to  sleep  in  that  town. 
It  is  eight  leagues  from  our  starting  place,  and  is  called 
Checan,  and  the  name  of  its  chief  is  Amohan. 

I  remained  four  days  collecting  supplies  enough  for 
six  days  more,  for  which  time  the  guide  told  me  we  would 
march  through  a  desert,  and  also  waiting  to  see  if  the 
chief  of  the  town,  whom  I  had  sent  to  call,  would  come, 
for  I  had  assured  him  through  those  Indians  I  had  cap- 
tured; but  neither  he  nor  they  appeared.  Having  col- 
lected all  the  provisions  obtainable  there,  I  left,  and 
marched,  the  first  day,  through  a  very  level  and  beautiful 
country,  with  no  forests,  save  now  and  then.  And, 
having  travelled  six  leagues,  we  reached  the  foot  of  a 
great  mountain  range  where  we  found  a  large  house  and 
two  or  three  smaller  ones  situated  near  a  river,  all  sur- 
rounded by  maize  plantations;  the  guides  told  me  that 
the  house  belonged  to  Amohan,  the  chief  of  Checan,  who 
kept  it  as  an  inn  for  the  many  traders  passing  that  way. 
I  stopped  there  one  day  besides  that  of  my  arrival, 
as  it  was  a  festival,  and  also  because  I  wished  to  give  the 
scouts  who  went  ahead  time  to  clear  the  road.  We 
had  very  excellent  fishing  in  the  river  near  Checan, 
where  we  found  a  large  number  of  shad  which  we  took 
without  difficulty,  not  one  of  those  which  entered  the 
nets  escaping. 

The  following  day,  we  marched  seven  leagues  through 
a  rough  and  mountainous  country,  and  spent  the  night 
on    the    banks   of   a   large   river.      On  the    next    day, 

Fifth  Letter  277 

after  about  three  leagues  of  very  bad  road,  we  reached 
a  beautiful  plain  without  woods,  except  a  few  pines; 
we  killed  seven  deer  in  these  plains,  which  extended 
for  about  two  leagues,  and  we  dined  on  the  banks  of 
a  very  fresh  stream  that  flows  through  them.  After 
dinner,  we  began  to  ascend  a  mountain  pass,  which, 
though  small,  was  rough  enough  so  that  we  had  to  lead 
our  horses  with  some  difficulty;  and,  after  the  descent,  we 
again  found  half  a  league  of  plain,  beyond  which  there 
was  another  mountain  pass  which  was  about  two  and 
a  half  leagues  long,  and  so  rough  that  there  was  not  a 
horse  left  but  that  had  lost  his  shoes.  I  slept  at  the  foot 
of  the  pass  near  a  stream,  where  I  remained  the  next  day 
until  about  the  hour  of  vespers,  waiting  for  the  horses 
to  be  shod;  and,  although  I  had  two  smiths,  and  more 
than  ten  who  helped  drive  the  nails,  they  could  not  all 
be  shod  that  day.  So  I  went  to  sleep,  three  leagues  far- 
ther on,  while  many  Spaniards  remained  there,  some  to 
shoe  their  horses,  and  others  to  wait  for  the  baggage, 
which,  on  account  of  the  bad  road  and  the  heavy  rains, 
had  not  come  up. 

I  left  there  the  next  day  because  the  guide  told  me  that 
there  was  a  hamlet,  called  Asuncapin,  close  by  belonging  to 
the  lord  of  Taiza,  where  I  would  arrive  in  plenty  of  time 
to  sleep;  after  marching  four  or  five  leagues  we  reached 
the  said  hamlet,  and  found  it  deserted;  and  there  I 
lodged  two  days,  waiting  for  the  baggage  and  gathering 
provisions.  This  being  accomplished,  I  went  to  a  hamlet, 
called  Taxuytel,  where  I  slept,  and  which  is  five  leagues 
from  Tiaza,  and  belongs  to  Amohan  the  Lord  of  Checan; 
there  were  many  cacao  plantations  and  some  of  maize, 
although  in  smaller  quantities  and  still  green.  Here  the 
guides  and  the  chief  of  these  hamlets,  whom  we  captured 
with  his  wife  and  his  son,  told  me  that  we  would  have  to 
cross  a  chain  of  high  and  rocky  mountains  all  uninhabited, 
and  that,   after  this,   we  would  arrive  at    some    other 

278  Letters  of  Cortes 

hamlets,  belonging  to  Canec,  lord  of  Taiza,  which  were 
called  Tenciz. 

We  did  not  stop  here  long,  but  departed  the  next  day, 
and,  having  traversed  about  six  leagues  of  level  country, 
The  Danger-  we  began  to  ascend  the  mountain  pass,  which 
ous  Pass  is  one  of  the  most  marvellous  things  in  the 
world  to  behold;  for  were  I  to  try  to  describe  its 
roughness  and  difficulties  I  would  entirely  fail  to 
make  anybody  understand  me.  But,  that  Your  Ma- 
jesty may  have  some  idea,  I  will  say  that,  in  cross- 
ing the  eight  leagues  of  this  mountain  pass,  we  spent 
twelve  days,  I  mean  until  we  reached  the  uttermost 
end  of  it;  during  which  time,  sixty-eight  horses  were 
lost  by  falling  over  precipices  and  being  hamstrung, 
while  all  the  others  were  so  fatigued  and  injured  that  we 
hardly  thought  we  could  ever  use  them  again,  and  more 
than  three  months  passed  before  they  were  fit  for  service. 
During  all  the  ascent  of  this  dreadful  pass,  it  poured  rain 
day  and  night,  but  such  was  the  character  of  the  moun- 
tains that  the  water  never  collected  anywhere  so  that 
we  could  drink  it,  and  hence  we  suffered  greatly  from 
thirst  and  our  horses  perished  on  account  of  it;  indeed, 
had  it  not  been  that  we  collected  water  in  copper  kettles 
and  other  vessels  while  camping  in  the  ranches  and  huts 
we  made  to  shelter  us,  not  a  man  or  horse  would  have 
escaped  alive.  During  this  crossing,  a  nephew  of  mine  fell 
and  broke  his  leg  in  three  or  four  places,  and,  aside  from 
the  suffering  he  endured,  this  increased  our  difficulties, 
because  we  had  to  carry  him. 

Our  troubles  were  not  yet  at  an  end ;  for,  about  a  league 
before  reaching  the  hamlets  of  Tenciz,  which,  as  I  said 
before,  are  on  the  other  side  of  the  mountains,  we  were 
stopped  by  a  very  large  river,  so  swollen  by  the  recent 
rains  that  it  was  impossible  to  cross  it.  The  Spaniards 
who  had  gone  ahead  had  followed  up  the  river  and  found 
the  most  marvellous  ford  which  has  ever  been  seen  or 

Fifth  Letter  279 

thought  of,  for  the  river  spread  out  for  upwards  of  two 
thirds  of  a  league,  owing  to  certain  large  rocks,  between 
the  crevices  of  which  the  water  flows  with  most  frightful 
force.  There  are  many  places  where  the  rocks  lie  so 
close  together  that  we  managed  to  cross  by  cutting  down 
large  trees  and  laying  them  from  one  rock  to  another 
and  holding  fast  by  creepers  which  were  tied  from  one 
side  to  the  other,  for  had  anyone  lost  his  footing  and 
fallen  he  would  have  been  certainly  lost.  There  were 
more  than  twenty  of  these  channels  to  cross,  so  that  it 
took  us  two  days,  and  the  horses  crossed  lower  down 
where  the  current  wTas  less  swift ;  but  though  the  distance 
to  Tenciz  was  only  one  league,  as  I  said  before,  many  of 
them  were  three  days  in  arriving  there;  such  was  their 
broken-down  condition  after  their  march  across  the 
mountains  that  my  men  were  almost  obliged  to  carry 
them,  for  they  could  scarcely  walk. 

I  reached  Tenciz  on  the  day  before  Easter  !  though 
many  of  my  people  did  not  arrive  until  three  days  after- 
wards ;  I  mean  those  who  had  horses  and  had  Easter  Day 
been    delayed    in    looking  after    them.     The  1525 

Spaniards  whom  I  had  sent  ahead  had  arrived  two 
days  before  me,  and,  taking  possession  of  two  or 
three  of  the  above  mentioned  hamlets,  had  captured 
some  twenty  odd  Indians,  who,  being  unaware  of  my 
presence  in  those  parts,  had  been  surprised.  I  asked 
them  if  they  had  any  provisions,  and  they  said  no; 
nor  could  any  be  found  in  all  the  country,  which 
considerably  augmented  our  misfortunes,  as,  during 
the  past  ten  days,  we  had  eaten  nothing  except 
cores  of  palm  trees  and  palmettos,  and  even  of  these  we 
had  not  enough,  so  that  we  were  so  weak  we  had  scarcely 
the  strength  to  cut  them  down.  One  of  the  chiefs,  how- 
ever, told  me  that,  by  ascending  the  river  a  day's  journey 
(which  river  had  again  to  be  crossed  at  the  same  dangerous 

1  Easter  fell  in  the  year  1525,  on  May  15th. 

280  Letters  of  Cortes 

spot)  there  was  the  large  town  of  a  province,  called 
Tahuyecal,  where  we  would  find  abundant  provisions 
of  maize,  cacao,  and  fowls,  and  that  he  would  give  us  a 
guide  to  lead  us  there.  I  immediately  sent  one  of  my 
captains  with  thirty  foot  soldiers  and  more  than  one 
thousand  of  the  Indians  who  came  with  us  thither,  and 
our  Lord  was  pleased  that  they  should  find  a  great  abun- 
dance of  maize,  and  plenty  of  people,  so  that  we  supplied 
ourselves,  although  it  was  with  difficulty  on  account  of 
the  distance. 

From  this  hamlet,  I  sent  certain  crossbowmen  with  a 
native  guide  to  explore  the  road  we  were  to  take  to  the 
province,  called  Acuculin;  and  they  reached  a  village 
of  the  said  province  some  ten  leagues  from  where  I  had 
stopped  and  six  from  the  chief  town  of  the  province, 
whose  lord  is  called  Acahuilguin.  They  arrived  there 
unnoticed,  and  in  one  house  they  surprised  seven  men 
and  a  woman,  whom  they  brought  to  me,  saying  that 
though  the  road  they  had  taken  was  bad  and  somewhat 
rough,  it  appeared  to  them  very  good  in  comparison 
with  that  over  which  we  had  come.  I  questioned  the 
Indian  prisoners  to  obtain  information  about  the  Chris- 
tians whom  I  sought,  and  one  of  them,  who  was  a  native 
of  Acalan,  told  me  that  he  was  a  trader,  having  his  prin- 
cipal trade  in  the  town  of  Nito  where  those  Spaniards 
lived,  that  there  was  a  large  traffic  carried  on  there  by 
merchants  from  all  parts  of  the  country,  and  that  his 
own  people  of  Acalan  lived  in  a  quarter  of  their  own, 
having  as  their  chief  a  brother  of  Apaspolon,  the 
lord  of  Acalan.  He  said  that  the  Christians  had 
come  there  one  night,  captured  the  town,  and  robbed 
the  inhabitants  of  all  they  had,  besides  much  valuable 
merchandise  belonging  to  traders  from  all  parts  who 
were  in  the  town.  In  consequence  of  this,  which  had 
happened  about  the  year  before,  the  people  had  aban- 
doned the  place  and  gone  to  other  provinces,  while  he 

Fifth  Letter  281 

and  certain  other  traders  of  Acalan  had  obtained  per- 
mission from  Acahuilguin,  the  lord  of  Acuculin,  to  settle 
in  his  country.  Here  he  [Acahuilguin]  had  given  them 
a  small  town  in  which  they  lived  and  whence  they  carried 
on  their  trade,  although  it  was  entirely  ruined  after  the 
Spaniards  had  come  there,  for  there  was  but  that  one 
road  and  nobody  ventured  to  use  it.  He  said  he  would 
guide  me,  but  that  we  would  be  obliged  to  cross  a  large 
inlet  of  the  sea  and  many  difficult  mountain  chains,  alto- 
gether a  ten  days'  journey. 

I  rejoiced  greatly  at  having  found  so  good  a  guide, 
and  treated  him  well,  instructing  the  guides  I  had  brought 
from  Mazatlan  and  Taiza  to  tell  him  how  well  I  had  treated 
them,  and  that  I  was  a  great  friend  of  Apaspolon,  their 
lord.  This  increased  his  confidence  in  me,  and  I  ven- 
tured to  set  him  and  all  his  companions  free,  trusting  him 
to  such  an  extent  that  I  discharged  the  guides  whom 
I  had  brought  thus  far,  giving  them  some  small  presents 
for  themselves  and  for  their  chiefs,  and  thanking  them  for 
their  services;  after  which  they  left  me  well  satisfied.  I 
ordered  four  men  from  Acuculin  and  two  chosen  among 
the  inhabitants  of  Tenciz  to  go  ahead  with  a  message 
from  me  to  the  lord  of  Acuculin,  and  encourage  him 
to  await  me;  and  after  them  there  followed  other  In- 
dians to  open  the  road.  The  scarcity  of  provisions  and 
the  want  of  rest,  both  for  the  men  and  horses,  delayed 
me  two  days  longer  at  that  place,  after  which  I  departed, 
leading  most  of  our  horses  until  we  reached  a  place  where 
we  passed  the  night.  At  daybreak  we  found  that  the  man 
who  was  to  have  been  our  guide  and  all  his  companions 
had  gone,  and  God  knows  how  I  regretted  having  dis- 
missed the  others.  I  marched  ahead  however,  and  slept 
in  a  forest,  five  leagues  distant  from  there;  and  on  the 
road  we  encountered  such  rough  places  that  the  only 
one  of  my  horses  which  had  held  out  was  disabled  by  a 
fall  and  has  not  yet  recovered. 

282  Letters  of  Cortes 

The  next  day,  I  marched  six  leagues  and  crossed  two 
rivers,  one  of  which  we  crossed  on  a  tree  which  had  fallen 
spanning  it ;  the  horses  swam  across  and  two  mares  were 
drowned ;  we  crossed  the  other  river  in  canoes,  the  horses 
swimming.  I  slept  in  a  small  town  of  about  fifteen  newly 
built  houses  which  I  learned  belonged  to  the  merchants 
of  Acalan  who  had  left  the  town  where  the  Christians 
were  and  had  settled  here.  I  waited  there  a  day  to  col- 
lect the  men  and  baggage,  then  I  sent  two  companies 
of  horsemen  and  one  of  foot  soldiers  in  the  direction  of 
Acuculin ;  from  there  they  wrote  me  that  they  had  found 
the  place  deserted,  but  that  in  a  large  house,  belonging 
to  the  lord  of  the  country,  they  had  captured  two  men 
who  were  waiting  there,  by  command  of  their  chief, 
to  advise  him  of  my  arrival  as  soon  as  they  saw  me.  The 
prisoners  declared  that  their  lord  had  heard  of  my  coming 
from  those  messengers  whom  I  had  sent  from  Tenciz, 
and  that  he  would  rejoice  to  see  me  and  come  as  soon 
as  he  learnt  that  I  had  arrived.  My  men  sent  one  to 
summon  the  lord  and  to  bring  some  provisions,  while  the 
other  they  held  as  hostage.  They  said  they  had  found 
cacao  but  no  maize,  and  that  the  pasture  for  the  horses 
was  fairly  good. 

When  I  reached  Acuculin,  I  immediately  asked  whether 
the  lord  had  arrived  or  the  messenger  returned,  and  they 
answered  that  they  had  not,  so  I  spoke  to  the  hostage 
and  asked  him  why  it  was.  He  answered  that  he  did 
not  know  unless  the  lord  was  awaiting  to  hear  that  I 
had  arrived  there,  and  that  now  he  was  aware  of  it  he 
would  come.  I  waited  one  day,  and,  as  he  did  not  come, 
I  again  spoke  to  the  hostage ;  and  he  said  that  he  did  not 
know  the  reason,  but  that  if  I  would  give  him  some 
Spaniards  he  knew  where  his  lord  was  and  would  go  with 
them  to  call  him.  So  ten  Spaniards  immediately  left 
with  him,  and  he  led  them  a  good  five  leagues  through 
forests  to  some  hamlets  which  they  found  empty,  but 

Fifth  Letter  283 

which,  according  to  what  the  Spaniards  said,  had  evi- 
dently been  recently  occupied;  and  that  night  the  guide 
deserted  them  and  they  returned.  Being  left  without 
any  guide,  which  was  cause  enough  to  double  our  troubles, 
I  sent  squads  of  people,  not  only  Spaniards,  but  also 
Indians,  in  all  directions  through  the  province,  and  they 
explored  for  eight  consecutive  days  without  meeting  any 
living  creature,  save  some  women,  who  were  of  little 
use  to  our  purpose,  because  neither  did  they  know  any 
road,  nor  could  they  give  any  account  of  the  lord  of  the 
province.  One  of  the  women,  however,  said  that  she 
knew  of  a  town,  two  days'  journey  from  there,  called 
Chianteco,  where  we  would  find  people  who  could  give 
us  news  of  those  Spaniards  whom  we  sought;  for  many 
merchants  lived  in  that  town  who  traded  everywhere. 
So  I  immediately  sent  people  thither  with  this  woman 
for  a  guide,  and,  although  the  town  was  two  long  days' 
journey  from  where  we  were,  and  accessible  only  by  a 
rough  and  deserted  road,  the  natives  of  it  had  already 
heard  of  my  coming  and  no  guide  could  be  secured.  Our 
Lord  was  pleased  that,  we  being  almost  hopeless  at  finding 
ourselves  without  a  guide,  and  unable  to  use  the  compass 
on  account  of  being  in  the  midst  of  forests  so  intricate, 
and  with  no  other  road  discoverable  which  led  anywhere 
save  the  one  we  had  come  on,  should  find  in  the  forest  a 
lad  of  about  fifteen  years  of  age,  who,  being  questioned, 
said  he  would  guide  us  as  far  as  some  hamlets  of  Taniha, 
which  is  another  province  I  remembered  I  had  to  cross, 
and  which  he  said  was  two  days'  journey  from  there.  So 
I  departed  with  this  guide,  and  reached  News  of  the 
those  hamlets  within  two  days,  finding  that  Spaniards 
the  scouts  who  had  gone  ahead  had  taken  an  at  Nlt0 
old  Indian  there  who  guided  them  as  far  as  the  towns 
of  Taniha,  which  are  another  two  days'  journey 
further  on.  Four  Indians  were  captured  in  these 
towns,  and,  as  soon  as   I  inquired  of  them,   they  gave 

284  Letters  of  Cortes 

me  news  of  the  Spaniards  whom  I  sought,  saying 
they  had  seen  them,  and  that  they  were  two  days'  journey 
from  there  in  the  same  town,  which  I  remembered  and 
which  is  called  Nito. x  This  being  a  centre  of  much 
trade  amongst  the  merchants  was  very  well  known  every- 
where, and  I  had  heard  about  it  already  in  the  Province 
of  Acalan,  of  which  I  have  already  spoken  to  Your 
Majesty.  They  also  brought  two  women,  natives  of  the 
said  town  Nito,  who  gave  me  further  details;  for  they 
told  me  they  were  in  the  town  when  the  Christians  cap- 
tured it,  and  that  they  themselves  were  among  the 
prisoners  taken  when  it  was  assaulted  by  night,  and  had 
served  the  Christians  whom  they  called  by  their  names. 
I  cannot  express  to  Your  Majesty  the  great  joy  which 
I  and  my  people  felt  at  the  news  these  natives  of  Taniha 
gave  us,  for  we  saw  ourselves  at  the  end  of  our  perilous 
journey.  We  had  passed  through  innumerable  troubles 
during  the  four  days  march  from  Acuculin,  owing  to 
the  precipitous  roads  and  rough  mountainous  passes 
we  had  to  cross.  During  this  time,  the  few  horses  we 
had  left  suffered  falls,  and  my  cousin,  Juan  de  Avalon, 
rolled  down  a  mountain  with  his  horse  and  broke  his 
arm 2 ;  and,  had  it  not  been  for  the  steel  plates  of  his 
armour  which  protected  him  from  the  stones,  he  would 
have  been  dashed  to  pieces;  and  we  had  trouble  enough 
to  get  him  up  again.  And  there  were  many  other  mis- 
fortunes, too  many  to  be  recounted,  which  befell  us,  es- 
pecially through  famine;  for,  although  we  had  brought 
from  Mexico  some  swine,  which  were  not  as  yet  all  con- 
sumed, neither  I  nor  my  men,  when  we  arrived  at  Taniha, 
had  tasted  any  bread  for  eight  consecutive  days ;  our  only 
food  was  palmettos  boiled  with  the  meat  and  without 

1  Nito  and  Naco  are  sometimes  confused,  but  they  are  distinct 
places:  Nito  is  now  called  San  Gil  de  Buena  Vista,  and  the  name  of 
Naco  remains  to  a  valley  near  Puerto  Caballos. 

2  A  few  pages  back  he  describes  his  cousin's  injuries  as  a  broken 
leg — "in  three  or  four  places." 

Fifth  Letter  285 

salt,  and  the  cores  of  palm  trees.  Neither  did  we  find 
any  food  in  these  towns  of  Taniha,  for,  being  in  the  near 
neighbourhood  of  the  Spaniards,  they  were  deserted, 
although,  had  the  natives  known  the  miserable  plight  in 
which  I  afterwards  found  the  Spaniards,  they  might 
have  felt  safe  from  being  attacked  by  them.  The  news 
that  we  were  so  near  to  them  made  us  forget  all  our  past 
troubles  and  gave  us  courage  to  support  our  present  ones, 
which  were  not  less  great;  especially  that  of  hunger, 
which  was  the  worst  of  all,  because  even  all  those  pal- 
mettos without  salt  were  in  insufficient  quantity,  since  they 
had  to  be  cut  with  such  great  difficulty  from  thick  and 
tall  palm  trees  that  it  took  two  men  a  day's  hard  work 
to  cut  what  they  could  eat  in  an  hour. 

Those  Indians  who  brought  me  news  of  the  Spaniards 
told  me  that,  before  reaching  Nito,  I  would  have  two 
days'  march  over  a  bad  road,  and  that,  near  by,  there 
was  a  large  river  which  could  be  crossed  only  in  canoes, 
for  it  was  so  wide,  and  the  current  so  strong,  that  it  would 
be  impossible  to  swim.  Upon  hearing  this,  I  sent  fifteen 
Spaniards  on  foot  in  that  direction,  guided  by  one  of 
those  Indians,  and  ordered  them  to  explore  the  roads 
and  the  river,  and  see  if  they  could  encounter  any  of  those 
Spaniards,  and  discover  to  what  group  or  party  the 
settlers  at  Nito  belonged,  whether  to  those  I  had  sent 
with  Cristobal  de  Olid,  or  to  those  of  Francisco  de  las 
Casas,  or  to  those  of  Gil  Gonzales  de  Avila.  So  they  left, 
and  the  Indian  guided  them  to  the  said  river,  where  they 
took  canoes  from  some  traders  and  hid  themselves  there 
for  two  days,  at  the  end  of  which  time  four  Spaniards 
came  in  a  canoe  to  fish.  They  seized  them,  not  letting 
any  escape,  nor  had  the  people  of  the  town  noticed 
the  occurrence.  When  they  were  brought  before  me, 
I  learned  that  the  people  there  belonged  to  Gil  Gonzales 
de  Avila,  and  that  they  were  all  ill  and  almost  starved 
to  death,   so  I  immediately  despatched,   in  that  same 

286  Letters  of  Cortes 

canoe,  two  of  my  servants,  to  take  a  letter  of  mine  to 
the  Spaniards,  announcing  my  arrival  and  my  intention 
to  cross  that  river  by  the  ford,  begging  them  to  send  me 
all  the  canoes  and  boats  they  could  to  help  my  crossing. 
I  set  out  with  all  my  people  for  the  said  ford  of  the  river, 
reaching  it  in  three  days ;  and  one  Diego  Nieto  came  there 
and  told  me  that  he  had  been  condemned  to  exile.  He 
brought  me  a  boat  and  a  canoe  in  which  I  embarked 
with  ten  or  twelve  of  my  people,  and  crossed  that  night 
to  the  town,  though  in  great  peril,  for  a  strong  wind 
struck  us  in  the  crossing  and  as  the  river  is  very  broad 
just  there  at  its  mouth,  we  were  in  danger  of  being  lost. 
It  pleased  our  Lord  to  bring  us  safely  across. 

The  next  day,  I  prepared  another  boat,  which  I  found 
in  the  harbour,  by  means  of  which  and  some  other  canoes 
Cortes  Ar-  which  I  had  tied  securely  two  by  two,  I  managed 
rives  at  Nito  to  bring  over  the  whole  of  the  people  and  horses 
within  five  or  six  days.  The  Spaniards  whom  I  found  there, 
some  seventy  men  and  twenty  women,  brought  thither 
by  Gil  Gonzales  de  Avila,  were  in  such  a  plight  that  it 
excited  the  greatest  compassion  merely  to  behold  them, 
aside  from  seeing  their  rejoicing  at  my  coming;  for,  of 
a  truth,  had  I  not  arrived,  everyone  would  have  perished. 
For,  besides  being  few,  unarmed,  and  without  horses,  they 
were  very  ill,  suffering  from  want  and  starvation,  as 
their  provisions  from  the  island,  and  what  they  had 
captured  from  the  natives  when  they  took  the  town, 
were  exhausted;  they  were  in  no  condition  to  procure 
any  more,  for  they  were  settled  on  a  sort  of  tongue  of 
land  from  which  there  was  no  issue,  except  by  watre? 
as  we  afterwards  discovered,  and  they  had  never  pene- 
trated half  a  league  into  the  country  from  where  they 
were.  Seeing  their  great  want,  I  determined  to  obtain 
some  relief,  until  means  could  be  provided  for  sending 
them  back  to  the  Islands,  where  they  could  recuperate, 
for  amongst  them  all  there  were  not  eight  fit  to  remain 

Fifth  Letter  287 

in  the  country  in  case  they  were  left  there .  I  immediately 
sent  some  of  my  people,  in  five  or  six  canoes  and 
two  barques  which  they  had  there,  in  various  directions 
by  sea  to  seek  provisions. 

The  first  expedition  was  to  go  to  the  mouth  of  a  river, 
called  Yasa,  about  two  leagues  from  that  settlement,  and 
in  the  direction  of  the  territory  through  which  I  had 
come;  for  I  had  learned  that  there  were  well  provisioned 
towns  thereabouts.  Upon  reaching  the  said  river,  they 
ascended  it  some  leagues  and  arrived  at  some  very  con- 
siderable plantations;  but  the  natives,  seeing  them  ap- 
proach, hastily  concealed  all  their  provisions  in  certain 
houses,  and,  carrying  their  women  and  children  and 
goods  and  chattels,  they  all  fled  to  the  forest.  When 
the  Spaniards  arrived  at  these  houses,  a  pouring  rain 
set  in,  so  they  all  collected  in  a  large  house,  and  as  they 
were  wet  through  they  all  took  off  their  armour,  and  many 
of  them  even  their  clothes  to  dry  them  and  warm  them- 
selves; and,  while  in  this  condition,  off  their  guard,  the 
natives  fell  upon  them,  wounding  most  of  them  in  such 
manner  that  they  were  forced  to  re-embark  and  to  return 
to  me  without  any  provisions.  God  knows  what  I 
suffered,  not  only  at  seeing  their  wounds,  some  of  which 
were  dangerous,  and  because  they  had  brought  no  re- 
lief for  alleviating  our  wants,  but  also  because  those  In- 
dians would  acquire  more  confidence  at  the  sight  of  our 

Immediately,  in  the  same  boats  and  canoes,  I  sent 
another  and  more  numerous  party  of  men,  composed  of 
Spaniards  as  well  as  Mexicans  under  command  of  one 
of  my  captains.  I  ordered  them  to  cross  to  the  other 
side  of  that  great  river  and  to  follow  along  the  coast  while 
the  barques  and  canoes  were  to  go  from  one  point  to 
another  of  the  land,  accompanying  them  so  as  to  enable 
them  to  cross  the  bays  and  rivers  which  were  many. 
So  they  set  out,  and  came  to  the  mouth  of  the  said  river 

288  Letters  of  Cortes 

where  the  other  Spaniards  had  been  wounded;  but  they 
returned  having  done  nothing,  and  bringing  no  supplies 
of  provisions  except  that  they  captured  four  Indians  in 
a  canoe  at  sea.  Being  asked  how  it  was  they  came  back 
thus,  they  said  that  the  great  rains  had  swollen  the  river 
to  a  raging  torrent,  and  they  could  not  ascend  it  more 
than  a  league;  but,  believing  it  would  subside,  they  had 
waited  eight  days  without  fire  or  any  provisions  except 
such  fruits  as  the  forest  yielded;  some  of  them  were  in 
such  a  condition  that  they  hardly  survived.  I  found 
myself  so  concerned  and  perplexed  that,  had  it  not  been 
for  the  swine  left  over  from  the  journey,  which  we  ate 
with  great  relish  without  either  bread  or  salt,  we  would 
have  all  perished  from  hunger.  Through  the  interpreter, 
I  asked  those  Indians  who  had  been  taken  in  the  canoe, 
whether  they  knew  of  any  place  in  the  neighbourhood 
where  we  might  procure  food,  promising  them  that,  if 
they  would  guide  me,  I  would  release  them  and  give 
them  many  presents  besides.  One  of  them  said  that  he 
was  a  trader  and  the  others  were  his  slaves,  and  that  he 
had  gone  frequently  with  his  merchant  ships  and  knew 
all  the  bay,  which  extended  from  there  to  a  large  river, 
in  which  all  the  traders  like  himself  took  refuge  in  time 
of  storm,  and  that,  on  that  river,  there  were  many  large 
towns  which  were  rich  and  well  stocked  with  provisions 
where  we  could  find  everything  we  required,  and  that  he 
would  guide  us  thither.  He  offered,  in  proof  of  his 
truth,  that  I  might  put  him  in  chains  and  if  he  had  lied 
I  might  punish  him  as  he  deserved.  So  I  ordered  the 
boats  and  canoes  to  be  prepared,  and,  having  manned 
them  with  all  who  were  still  healthy  and  capable  of 
bearing  fatigue,  I  sent  them  under  the  guidance  of  that 
man ;  but  ten  days  later  they  returned  as  they  had  gone, 
saying  that  the  guide  had  led  them  into  marshes  where 
neither  the  barques  nor  canoes  could  float,  and  that,  in 
spite  of  their  efforts,  they  had  never  been  able  to  cross. 

Fifth  Letter  289 

I  asked  the  guide  why  he  had  hoaxed  me  thus,  and  he 
answered  that  he  had  not  done  so,  but  that  the  Span- 
iards whom  I  had  sent  with  him  refused  to  go  on  though 
they  had  been  close  to  the  spot  where  the  river  joined  the 
sea;  and  indeed  many  of  the  Spaniards  even  admitted 
that  they  had  heard  the  sound  of  the  sea  very  distinctly, 
so  they  could  not  have  been  very  far  from  it. 

I  cannot  express  what  I  felt  at  seeing  myself  so  beyond 
help,  and  almost  beyond  hope,  faced  with  the  fear  that 
none  of  us  would  escape  death  by  starvation,  conditions 
God,  our  Lord,  Who  always  relieves  necessities,  at  Nito 
even  those  of  one  so  unworthy  as  I,  and  Who  has  so  often 
delivered  me  in  such  because  I  am  in  the  royal  service  of 
Your  Majesty  guided  thither  a  ship  which  was  coming  from 
the  Islands,  with  no  idea  of  finding  me,  and  which  carried 
some  thirty  men,  besides  the  crew  and  thirteen  horses, 
seventy  odd  swine,  twelve  casks  of  salt  meat  and  thirty 
loads  of  bread,  of  the  kind  used  in  the  Islands.  We  all 
gave  thanks  to  our  Lord,  Who  had  rescued  us  in  our  great 
necessity;  and  I  bought  all  those  provisions  of  the  ship 
for  the  price  of  four  thousand  pesos.  I  had  already 
worked  at  repairing  a  caravel  which  the  Spaniards  there 
had  allowed  to  go  almost  to  pieces,  and  had  begun  build- 
ing a  brigantine  from  pieces  of  other  vessels  which  had 
been  wrecked  thereabouts,  so  that,  when  this  ship  arrived, 
the  caravel  was  already  repaired;  though  I  believe  we 
would  never  have  finished  the  brigantine  had  that  ship 
not  come,  because  it  brought  us  a  man  who,  though  not 
really  a  ship's  carpenter,  was  yet  sufficiently  versed  in 
that  trade. 

In  scouring  the  country,  a  path  was  discovered  leading 
through  some  rough  mountains  to  a  certain  town,  called 
Leguela,  eighteen  leagues  from  there,  where  plenty  of 
provisions  were  found,  though,  owing  to  the  bad  road, 
it  was  impossible  to  avail  ourselves  of  them. 

Some  Indians  captured  there  told  us  that  the  place 

VOL.    II— 19 

290  Letters  of  Cortes 

where  Francisco  de  las  Casas,  Cristobal  de  Olid,  and  Gil 
Gonzalez  de  Avila  had  left,  and  where  Christobal  de 
Olid  had  died,  as  I  have  already  informed  Your  Majesty, 
and  will  again  hereafter  speak  of,  was  a  town  called  Naco. 
This  agreed  with  the  information  given  by  the  Spaniards 
I  had  found  at  Nito,  so  I  immediately  ordered  a  road 
to  be  opened,  and  sent  ahead  all  my  men,  foot  soldiers 
and  horsemen,  under  one  of  my  captains,  keeping  with 
me  only  the  servants  of  my  household,  the  sick,  and 
those  who  wished  to  remain  and  go  by  sea.  I  instructed 
that  captain  to  go  to  the  said  town  of  Naco,  and  try  to 
pacify  the  people  of  that  province  who  were  still  some- 
what disturbed  in  consequence  of  the  presence  of  those 
Spaniards ;  and  that  as  soon  as  he  arrived  he  should  send 
ten  or  twelve  horsemen,  with  as  many  crossbowmen,  to  the 
bay  of  San  Andres, 1  about  twenty  leagues  distant  from 
there.  Meanwhile  I  would  bring  the  sick  and  wounded 
and  the  rest  of  the  people  by  sea,  and  wait  for  them  if 
I  arrived  first;  if,  on  the  contrary,  they  arrived  first, 
they  should  wait  for  me. 

After  their  departure  and  the  completion  of  the  brigan- 
tine,  I  thought  to  embark  with  the  rest  of  my  people, 
but  I  discovered  that,  although  we  had  salt  meat  enough, 
we  had  not  sufficient  bread;  and  it  seemed  a  very  risky 
thing  to  put  to  sea  without  this,  having  so  many  sick 
people  on  board,  for,  if  we  encountered  bad  weather 
which  would  delay  us,  we  should  be  exposed  to  death 
by  starvation  instead  of  finding  relief  for  our  woes. 
While  considering  how  to  remedy  this,  one  who  had  been 
left  as  captain  of  those  people  told  me  that,  when  they 
had  first  come  there  with  Gil  Gonzalez,  they  had  brought 
a  very  good  brigantine  and  four  ships ;  and  that  with  the 
ships'  boats  they  had  ascended  that  river  and  found  two 
large  gulfs  of  fresh  water,  on  whose  shores  there  were 
several  villages  well  stocked  with  food.     After  they  had 

1  San  Andres  is  now  called  Puerto  Caballos. 

Fifth  Letter  291 

navigated  to  the  extreme  end  of  them,  a  distance  al- 
together of  fourteen  leagues  up  the  river,  the  stream 
became  so  narrow  and  so  impetuous  that,  in  six  days, 
they  had  not  made  more  than  four  leagues,  although 
the  waters  were  still  very  deep.  They  had  not  been  able 
to  discover  much  about  it,  but  he  believed  that  we  would 
there  find  sufficient  provisions  of  maize.  He  thought 
I  had  too  few  people  to  go  thither,  for  eighty  of  his  party 
had  landed,  and,  although  they  had  succeeded  in  sur- 
prising the  town,  the  Indians  gathered  afterwards 
and  fought  with  them,  wounding  several  people  and 
forcing  them  to  re-embark. 

Seeing,  however,  the  extremity  in  which  we  were, 
and  that  it  was  more  dangerous  to  go  to  sea  without 
provisions  than  to  hunt  for  them  on  land,  I  determined 
to  ascend  that  river;  for,  besides  having  no  alternative, 
it  might  be  that  God,  our  Lord,  would  grant  that  I  should 
there  discover  some  secret  profitable  to  Your  Majesty. 
So  I  immediately  counted  the  people  capable  of  ac- 
companying me,  and  found  some  forty  Spaniards  who, 
though  not  all  fit  for  service,  were  still  able  to  guard 
the  ships  while  I  landed.  With  these  forty  Spaniards 
and  about  fifty  Indians  who  still  remained  of  those  whom 
I  brought  from  Mexico,  and  everything  being  ready  for 
sea,  I  set  out,  in  two  other  boats  and  four  canoes,  in  the 
direction  of  that  river  we  were  to  ascend,  leaving  all  my 
sick  people  in  that  town  with  a  steward  of  mine  to  take 
charge  of  them.  At  first,  we  had  great  difficulty  in 
navigating  against  the  strong  current  of  the  river,  but 
after  two  nights  and  a  day  we  reached  the  first  of  the 
two  rivers  above  mentioned,  some  three  leagues  distant 
from  our  starting  place;  the  gulf  may  measure  about 
twelve  leagues  around,  its  shores  being  completely 
deserted,  very  low,  and  swampy.  I  sailed  an  entire 
day  about  this  gulf,  until  I  came  to  another  narrowing 
which  the  river  makes;  and,  entering  it,  I  reached  the 

292  Letters  of  Cortes 

other  gulf  the  next  morning.  It  was  certainly  the  most 
beautiful  thing  in  the  world  to  behold,  for,  in  the  midst 
of  the  rockiest  and  most  rugged  mountain  chain,  there 
existed  a  sea  of  over  thirty  leagues  in  extent.  I  fol- 
lowed along  the  shore  until  towards  nightfall  we  per- 
ceived a  village,  and,  landing,  we  found  an  entrance  to 
it  about  two  thirds  of  a  league  distant ;  but  it  appeared  I 
had  been  perceived,  for  the  place  was  entirely  deserted 
and  empty.  In  the  neighbouring  fields  we  found  a  great 
abundance  of  green  maize  which  we  ate  that  night  and 
the  next  morning;  but,  as  we  did  not  find  what  we  came 
for,  we  took  a  supply  of  that  green  maize  and  returned 
to  our  boats,  without  having  seen  any  natives  of  the 

In  crossing  to  the  other  side  of  the  gulf,  which  was 
accomplished  with  great  difficulty  on  account  of  a  con- 
trary wind  we  encountered,  one  canoe  was  lost,  but  its 
crew  were  saved  by  a  barque,  so  that  only  one  Indian 
was  drowned.  It  was  late  in  the  evening  when  we  reached 
the  shore,  so  we  could  not  land  until  the  next  morning, 
when  we  ascended  a  small  stream  with  the  barques  and 
canoes,  leaving  the  brigantine  outside.  Thus  I  reached 
the  place  where  there  seemed  to  be  a  trail,  and,  having 
ordered  the  boats  and  canoes  to  return  to  the  brigantine 
on  the  gulf,  I  landed  with  thirty  of  my  men  and  all  the 
Indians;  and,  following  the  trail,  I  reached  a  village 
about  a  quarter  of  a  league  distant  which  seemed  to  have 
been  abandoned  by  its  inhabitants  many  days  before, 
for  the  houses  were  choked  with  weeds,  although  there 
were  many  fine  orchards  of  cacao  and  other  fruit  trees 
in  the  neighbourhood ;  I  explored  the  town  to  see  if  there 
was  a  road  leading  anywhere,  and  finally  found  one,  so 
overgrown  that  apparently  it  had  not  been  used  for  some 
time.  As  I  found  no  other  I  followed  it,  and  marched 
that  day  some  five  leagues  over  mountains  so  rugged 
that  we  had  to  scramble  over  them  with  both  hands  and 

Fifth  Letter  293 

feet.  We  came  to  some  maize  plantations,  with  a  house 
in  the  midst  of  them,  where  we  captured  three  women  and 
a  man,  who  were  doubtless  the  owners  of  these  planta- 
tions. They  guided  us  to  other  plantations,  where  we 
took  two  more  women,  who,  in  turn,  led  us  by  a  road 
to  a  very  large  plantation,  in  the  midst  of  which  stood 
forty  very  small  huts  which  seemed  to  have  been  recently 
built.  It  would  appear,  however,  that  our  arrival  was 
known,  for  the  village  was  deserted  and  all  the  people 
had  fled  to  the  mountains;  but,  as  we  came  upon  them 
so  suddenly,  they  could  not  carry  off  their  provisions, 
so  they  had  to  leave  us  something,  especially  fowls, 
partridges,  pigeons,  and  pheasants,  which  they  kept  in 
cages;  there  was,  however,  no  dried  maize,  and  no  salt. 
I  passed  the  night  there,  and  the  fowls  and  some  green 
maize  which  we  found  somewhat  assuaged  our  hunger. 
We  had  been  there  more  than  two  hours  when  two 
of  its  inhabitants  came,  very  much  surprised  to  find  such 
guests  in  their  houses ;  they  were  captured  by  my  scouts, 
and,  on  being  asked  if  they  knew  of  any  town  near  there, 
they  answered  yes,  and  that  they  would  guide  me  to  it 
the  next  day  but  that  we  could  arrive  only  very  late, 
almost  at  night.  The  next  morning,  therefore,  we  began 
our  march,  guided  by  these  two  Indians,  over  roads  still 
worse  than  those  of  the  day  before;  for,  besides  being 
quite  as  overgrown  with  brushwood,  we  had  at  almost 
every  arrow's  shot  to  cross  one  of  the  many  rivers  which 
empty  into  that  gulf.  It  is  owing  to  the  great  accumu- 
lation of  waters  coming  down  from  the  mountains  that 
these  gulfs  and  lagoons  are  formed  and  that  the  river 
flows  with  such  rapidity  at  its  mouth,  as  I  have  told  Your 
Majesty.  Following  our  road  in  this  wise,  we  travelled 
seven  leagues  without  seeing  any  inhabited  places,  during 
which  distance  we  crossed  forty-five  large  rivers,  not 
counting  many  creeks.  On  the  road  we  captured  three 
women,  who  were  coming  with  loads  of  maize  from  that 

294  Letters  of  Cortes 

town  to  which  the  guide  was  taking  us,  who  assured  us 
that  the  guide  spoke  the  truth. 

At  about  sunset,  we  distinguished  a  noise  as  of  people, 
and,  asking  those  women  what  it  meant,  they  answered 
that  a  certain  festival  was  being  celebrated  that  day. 
I  concealed  all  my  people  in  the  forest  in  the  most 
perfect  manner  possible,  and  placed  some  scouts  quite 
close  to  the  town,  and  others  on  the  road,  to  capture  any 
Indians  who  might  be  passing;  and  thus  we  passed  the 
night  in  a  great  downpour  of  rain  and  amid  the  greatest 
pest  of  mosquitoes  imaginable.  Such  was  the  condition 
of  the  forest  and  the  road,  and  so  dark  and  tempestuous 
was  the  night  that,  two  or  three  times  when  I  attempted 
to  reach  the  town,  I  failed  to  discover  the  way,  although 
we  were  so  near  that  we  could  almost  hear  the  people 
talking  to  one  another;  thus  we  were  forced  to  wait  for 
daylight,  when  we  fell  upon  them  so  opportunely  that 
we  found  them  all  asleep.  I  had  given  orders  that  no- 
body should  enter  a  house  or  utter  a  cry,  but  that  we 
should  surround  the  principal  houses,  especially  that  of 
the  chief,  and  a  large  barracks  in  which  the  guide  said  all 
the  warriors  slept.  Our  good  fortune  willed  it  that  the 
first  house  to  which  we  came  was  that  in  which  the 
warriors  were  gathered.  It  was  already  daylight,  so 
that  everything  could  be  seen,  and  one  of  my  men,  seeing 
so  many  people  in  arms,  and  considering  how  few  in 
number  we  were  to  attack  such  numerous  opponents, 
even  though  they  were  asleep,  began  to  cry  for  help, 
and  to  shout,  ''Santiago!  Santiago!''  which  awakened  the 
Indians.  Some  of  them  seized  their  weapons,  and  others 
did  not,  but,  the  houses  having  no  walls,  their  roofs  being 
supported  merely  by  wooden  posts,  most  of  the  Indians 
fled  in  every  direction  as  soon  as  we  entered  the  place, 
for  it  was  too  large  to  be  entirely  surrounded.  I  assure 
Your  Majesty  that  had  that  man  not  shouted  everyone  of 
them  would  have  been  captured  and  it  would  have  turned 

Fifth  Letter  295 

out  the  most  beautiful  undertaking  ever  seen  in  these 
parts,  and  might  have  brought  about  their  complete  pacifi- 
cation; for,  by  setting  them  free  again,  and  explaining 
the  reason  of  my  coming,  and  reassuring  them,  they  would 
have  seen  how  well  they  were  treated  and  thus  good 
results  would  have  been  produced;  whereas  exactly  the 
contrary  happened.  We  captured  about  fifteen  men  and 
twenty  women,  and  some  ten  or  twelve  other  men  perished 
in  resisting  capture,  among  whom  was  their  chief,  who 
had  not  been  recognised  until  afterwards  when  the  pris- 
oners showed  me  his  dead  body.  Neither  in  this  town 
did  we  find  anything  to  supply  our  wants,  for,  although 
there  was  plenty  of  green  maize  in  the  fields,  it  was 
not  the  kind  of  food  for  which  we  came  to  search.  I 
remained  in  this  town  two  days  to  rest  my  people. 

Having  asked  the  Indians  who  were  captured  there 
whether  they  knew  of  any  other  town  in  the  vicinity 
where  dried  maize  could  be  found,  they  said  they  knew 
a  town,  called  Chacujal,  which  was  a  large  and  ancient 
one,  where  all  kinds  of  provisions  would  be  found  in 
abundance,  so  I  departed,  guided  by  these  Indians 
towards  the  town  they  mentioned;  and,  having  marched 
six  long  leagues  of  bad  road  that  day,  crossing  many  a 
river,  I  reached  some  large  plantations  which  the  guides 
told  me  belonged  to  the  towns  whither  we  were  going. 
For  about  two  leagues  through  the  forest  near  them,  we 
advanced  so  as  not  to  be  seen,  and  my  scouts,  whom  I 
always  sent  ahead  of  me,  captured  eight  wood-cutters 
and  other  labourers  who  were  coming  unsuspectingly 
through  the  forest  towards  me.  About  sunset,  the  guides 
told  me  to  halt,  as  we  were  already  very  near  the  town; 
so  I  stopped  in  the  forest  till  the  third  hour  of  the  night. 
Then  I  again  began  to  march,  coming  to  a  river,  which 
we  crossed  in  water,  breast  high,  and  so  swift  that  the 
crossing  was  sufficiently  dangerous,  and  only  by  holding 
one  another  hand  in  hand  did  we  cross  without  losing 

296  Letters  of  Cortes 

anyone.  The  guides  then  explained  that  the  village  was 
near  by,  so  I  ordered  my  men  to  halt  and  went  myself 
with  two  companies  close  enough  to  see  the  houses  and 
even  to  hear  the  people  talking;  they  all  seemed  quite 
tranquil,  and  we  had  evidently  not  been  detected.  I 
returned  to  my  people,  and  made  them  take  some  rest, 
putting  six  men  on  watch  in  sight  of  the  town  on  each 
side  of  the  road ;  but  when  I  had  lain  down  on  some  straw 
to  rest,  one  of  my  scouts  whom  I  had  left  came  and  told 
me  that  many  armed  people  were  coming  along  the  road, 
talking  together  and  evidently  unaware  of  our  presence. 
I,  therefore,  ordered  my  people  to  form  as  quickly  as 
they  could;  but,  as  the  distance  between  the  village  and 
our  camp  was  so  short,  the  Indians  discovered  the  scouts, 
and,  as  soon  as  they  perceived  them,  they  let  fly  a  volley 
of  arrows  and  then  retreated  towards  the  town,  fighting 
until  we  entered,  when  it  was  so  dark  they  disap- 
peared immediately  amongst  the  streets.  Fearing  an 
ambush,  I  did  not  allow  my  people  to  disband,  but, 
keeping  them  well  together,  I  marched  to  a  great  square 
where  there  were  mosques  and  oratories,  built  in  the 
same  manner  and  surrounded  by  buildings  of  the  same 
kind,  and  in  the  same  fashion  as  those  of  Culua;  our 
fears  were  here  increased  because,  since  leaving  Acalan, 
we  had  seen  nothing  of  the  kind.  There  were  even  some 
who  expressed  the  opinion  that  we  ought  to  return  and 
cross  the  river  that  same  night  before  the  people  of  the 
town,  perceiving  we  were  so  few,  should  cut  off  our 
retreat.  And,  truly,  this  advice  was  not  bad  in  view 
of  what  we  had  already  seen  of  the  place,  and  what  we 
had  reason  to  fear;  thus  we  remained  gathered  in  that 
great  square  for  a  long  time,  without  hearing  any  sound 
of  the  people.  It  seemed  to  me  we  ought  not  to  leave 
that  town  in  such  manner,  for  this  reason,  that,  perhaps, 
the  Indians  seeing  we  remained  would  be  more  frightened 
than  if  they  saw  us  leave  in  that  way ;  for,  if  we  retreated, 

Fifth  Letter  297 

the  enemy  would  the  sooner  perceive  our  weakness,  which 
would  augment  our  danger. 

It  pleased  our  Lord  that  it  should  happen  thus,  for, 
after  remaining  a  long  time  in  that  square,  I  entered 
with  my  people  into  one  of  those  large  halls,  and  sent 
others  out  into  the  town  to  report  if  they  saw  anyone. 
They  never  encountered  anyone,  but,  on  the  contrary, 
they  entered  many  houses  and  found  the  fires  still  burn- 
ing, and  a  large  stock  of  provisions,  which  pleased  them 
greatly;  so  we  remained  there  that  night  with  every 
possible  precaution.  At  daybreak,  we  explored  the 
whole  town,  which  was  well  laid  out,  the  houses  being 
very  well  built,  and  close  together.  We  found  a  great 
deal  of  cotton  in  them,  some  woven,  and  some  ready  for 
weaving,  also  clothing,  and  a  large  quantity  of  dried 
maize,  cacao,  beans,  pepper,  and  salt,  besides  many  fowls 
and  pheasants  in  cages,  partridges,  and  dogs  of  the 
species  they  raise  to  eat  (and  which  are  exceedingly 
good) ;  and  every  other  variety  of  provisions  to  such  an 
extent  that,  had  we  had  the  ships  where  we  could  load 
them,  I  would  have  regarded  myself  as  well  provided  for 
many  a  day.  But  to  avail  ourselves  of  them  we  would 
have  had  to  carry  them  on  men's  backs  twenty  leagues, 
while  we  were  in  such  a  condition  that  we  had  enough  to 
do  to  carry  ourselves  back  to  the  ships  without  taking 
other  loads,  for,  had  we  not  rested  there  for  some  days, 
we  should  have  been  unable  to  return  to  our  boats. 

The  next  day,  I  sent  for  a  native  of  the  place  who  had 
been  captured  near  the  plantations,  and  who  seemed  a 
person  of  importance,  for  he  had  his  bow  and  arrows  for 
hunting,  and  was  well  dressed,  according  to  their  fashion. 
I  spoke  to  him  through  an  interpreter  I  had,  telling 
him  to  go  to  the  chief  and  his  people  and  say  to  them 
that  I  had  not  come  to  do  them  any  harm,  but  rather 
to  tell  them  some  things  which  were  expedient  for  them 
to   know,    and   to    say   that   the   chief   or   some   other 

298  Letters  of  Cortes 

honourable  person  should  come  and  learn  the  cause  of  my 
arrival,  for  they  might  be  sure  that  much  good  would 
result  to  them;  on  the  contrary  if  they  refused  they 
might  suffer  for  it.  Thus  I  despatched  him  with  a  letter 
of  mine  to  the  chief,  for  the  people  of  those  parts  were 
always  more  assured  by  seeing  my  letters.  I  did  this 
against  the  advice  of  some  of  my  men,  who  said  it  was 
unwise  to  send  him,  for  he  would  explain  to  them  how 
few  we  were;  that  the  village  was  large  and  populous, 
judging  from  the  number  of  houses  closely  built  together, 
and  that  the  inhabitants,  seeing  how  few  we  were,  might 
easily  call  on  their  neighbours  for  help  and  attack  us. 
I  saw  they  were  right,  yet  wished  to  find  the  means  of 
sufficiently  provisioning  my  company,  and  believing  that, 
if  those  people  came  to  me  peaceably,  they  might  perhaps 
furnish  means  for  carrying  away  some  of  the  provisions, 
I  set  aside  their  arguments;  because  in  truth  no  less 
danger  waited  us  from  starvation  if  we  lived  without 
provisions,  than  there  did  in  an  attack  from  the  Indians. 
I,  therefore,  despatched  the  Indian,  who  promised  to 
return  the  next  day,  as  he  knew  where  the  chief  and  all 
the  people  were.  On  the  day  appointed  for  the  Indian's 
return,  two  of  my  Spaniards  who  were  exploring  about 
the  town  and  country  found  my  letter  placed  on  a  pole 
by  the  roadside,  from  which  we  judged  we  would  have 
no  answer;  and  thus  it  happened,  for  neither  the  Indian 
nor  anybody  else  came,  so  we  remained  eighteen  days 
there,  resting,  ana  seeking  to  devise  some  means  for 
carrying  away  those  provisions. 

While  pondering  this  it  seemed  to  me  that,  by  following 
down  the  river,  I  might  perhaps  come  to  the  other  large 
river  that  empties  into  the  gulf  of  fresh  water  where  I 
had  left  my  brigantine  as  well  as  my  boats  and  canoes; 
so  I  asked  those  Indians  whom  I  held  prisoners  if  this 
was  true,  and  they  answered  yes,  though  we  could  not 
understand  them  very  well,  nor  they  us,  for  they  spoke 

Fifth  Letter  299 

a  different  language  from  any  we  had  yet  heard. l  By 
signs,  however,  and  with  some  words  which  I  understood 
of  that  language,  I  prayed  that  two  of  them  would  guide 
ten  Spaniards  to  the  junction  of  that  river  with  the  other; 
and  they  answered  that  it  was  very  near,  so  that  they 
could  go  and  return  the  same  day.  And  God  was  pleased 
that,  having  travelled  about  two  leagues  through  some 
very  beautiful  orchards  of  cacao  and  other  fruit  trees,  they 
came  upon  a  large  river  which  they  said  emptied  into 
the  gulf  where  I  had  left  the  brigantines  and  barques 
and  canoes,  saying  that  the  river's  name  was  Apolochic. 
Having  been  asked  how  long  the  journey  would  take 
in  canoes  to  the  gulf  they  replied  five  days,  so  I  im- 
mediately sent  two  Spaniards  with  one  of  Building 
those  guides  who  offered  to  take  them,  by  the  Rafts 
short  cuts  known  to  him,  to  where  the  brigantines  lay. 
I  ordered  that  the  brigantines  and  barques  and  canoes 
be  brought  to  the  mouth  of  that  large  river,  and  that, 
leaving  the  vessel  behind,  the  two  Spaniards  should  try, 
with  one  canoe  and  a  boat,  to  ascend  the  river  to 
its  junction  with  the  other.  Having  despatched  these 
men,  I  ordered  four  rafts  to  be  constructed  of  logs  and 
large  bamboos,  capable  of  carrying  forty  bushels  of 
dried  maize  and  ten  men,  not  counting  many  other 
things  such  as  beans,  and  red  peppers,  and  cacao,  which 
each  Spaniard  took  besides.  It  took  eight  full  days  to 
construct  the  rafts.  When  they  were  loaded,  the  Span- 
iard I  had  sent  to  the  brigantines  returned,  and  told  me 
that,  after  ascending  the  river  for  six  consecutive  days, 
they  had  found  it  impossible  to  fetch  the  barque  up,  and 

1  The  multitude  and  variety  of  American  languages  prove  the 
high  antiquity  of  the  different  peoples,  for  long  centuries  must  have 
been  required  to  evolve  such  diversity,  especially  where  there  was  no 
written  language.  Humboldt  enumerates  fifteen  different  idioms, 
as  absolutely  distinct  from  one  another  as  Persian  from  German,  or 
French  from  Polish.  Brasseur  de  Bourbourg  estimates  the  total 
number,  including  dialects,  at  about  two  hundred. 

3oo  Letters  of  Cortes 

had  therefore  left  it  with  a  guard  of  ten  Spaniards  and 
finished  their  journey  in  the  canoe;  they  arrived  at  a 
place  about  one  league  lower  down  the  river,  where 
exhausted  from  rowing  they  had  left  it  hidden.  On  their 
way  up  the  river  they  had  been  attacked  by  some  few 
Indians  and  had  fought  sometimes  with  them;  these,  they 
thought,  however,  would  gather  forces  to  await  their 
return.  I  immediately  sent  people  to  bring  up  the  canoe 
to  where  the  rafts  were,  and,  having  loaded  all  the  pro- 
visions we  had  gathered  onto  the  rafts,  I  selected  the 
necessary  people  to  man.  them,  who  were  supplied  with 
long  poles  to  protect  them  from  floating  logs,  which  made 
the  river  rather  dangerous.  1  sent  the  remainder  of  my 
people  under  a  captain  to  return  by  the  same  road  on 
which  we  had  come,  with  orders  to  await  me  where  we  had 
first  disembarked  if  they  arrived  there  before  me,  for  I 
would  go  thither  to  meet  them;  and  if  I  arrived  first  I 
would  wait  for  them.  I  embarked  in  a  canoe  with  the 
only  two  crossbowmen  left. 

Though  the  journey  I  was  undertaking  was  extremely 
dangerous,  owing  to  the  rapid  current  and  to  the  ap- 
proximate certainty  that  the  Indians  would  waylay  us  on 
our  passage,  I,  nevertheless,  determined  to  go  that  way, 
the  better  to  preserve  order;  and,  recommending  myself 
to  God,  I  began  the  descent  of  the  river,  which  was  ac- 
complished with  such  rapidity  that,  in  three  hours,  we 
came  to  where  the  barque  had  been  left. 

Here  we  thought  to  lighten  the  rafts  by  transferring 
some  of  the  cargo  onto  it,  but  so  rapid  was  the  current 
that  they  could  not  stop.  I  went  on  board  the  barque, 
and  ordered  that  the  canoe,  well-manned,  should  go  ahead 
of  the  rafts,  to  see  whether  any  Indians  were  in  ambush, 
and  to  discover  any  dangerous  places  there  might  be. 
I  myself  remained  behind  in  the  barque  ready  to  help 
the  rafts  if  need  should  be,  for  I  could  more  easily  be  of 
assistance  from  the  rear  than  from  the  front. 

Fifth  Letter  30 l 

About  sunset,  one  of  the  rafts  was  somewhat  shat- 
tered by  striking  a  submerged  log,  though  it  was 
floated  again  by  the  fury  of  the  water  after  half  its  cargo 
had  been  lost.  Three  hours  after  nightfall,  I  heard  the 
shouts  of  Indians  ahead  of  us,  but,  not  wishing  to  leave 
the  rafts  behind,  I  did  not  go  ahead  to  see  what  it  meant, 
and,  after  a  little,  it  ceased,  and  we  heard  nothing  more 
for  a  while.  A  little  later  I  heard  it  again,  and  it  seemed 
to  me  nearer,  but  it  ceased,  and  I  could  not  ascertain 
what  it  was,  as  the  canoe  and  the  three  rafts  went  ahead 
and  I  followed  behind  with  the  damaged  raft,  which  could 
not  travel  so  fast.  For  quite  a  while  then  no  more  shouts 
were  heard,  so  we  proceeded  somewhat  off  our  guard 
while  I  took  off  my  helmet,  for  I  had  a  high  fever,  and 
rested  my  head  on  my  hands.  Continuing  thus,  the 
violence  of  the  current  at  the  bend  of  the  river  struck 
us  with  such  force  that  the  barque  and  rafts  were  driven 
on  the  bank.  It  then  transpired  that  the  shouts  we  had 
heard  had  come  from  this  point,  for  the  Indians  who  in- 
habited its  banks  knew  the  river  well,  and  foresaw  that 
the  force  of  the  current  would  throw  us  on  land  at  that 
point;  so,  many  of  them  awaited  us  there,  and,  as  soon 
as  the  canoe  and  rafts  which  had  gone  ahead  reached 
that  spot  where  we  arrived  later,  they  were  assaulted  by 
a  volley  of  arrows  which  wounded  almost  everyone  of  their 
crews  though  knowing  that  most  of  us  still  remained 
behind,  the  attack  of  the  Indians  was  not  so  furious  as 
that  which  they  afterwards  made  upon  us.  The  people 
in  the  canoe  were  prevented  by  the  strong  current  from 
coming  back  to  warn  us,  so,  when  we  were  thrown  on 
land,  the  Indians  raised  a  great  yell  and  let  fly  such  a 
volley  of  arrows  and  stones  that  we  were  all  of  us  wounded, 
I  in  the  head  which  was  the  only  part  not  protected  by 
my  mail.  Our  Lord  permitted  this  to  happen  by  a  high 
bluff  where  the  waters  were  very  deep,  and  to  this  circum- 
stance we  owed  our  escape;  for,  the  night  being  ver\ 

302  Letters  of  Cortes 

dark,  some  of  the  Indians  fell  into  the  water,  and  I 
believe  many  were  drowned.  The  current  soon  whirled 
us  quickly  away,  and  very  shortly  after  we  could  hardly 
hear  their  shouts.  The  rest  of  the  night  passed  without 
any  further  encounter,  though  now  and  then  we  heard 
faint  cries  from  the  distance,  or  from  the  bluffs  of  the 
river.  The  banks  of  the  river  are  lined  with  beautiful 

At  daybreak,  we  found  ourselves  about  five  leagues 
from  the  mouth  of  the  river,  where  it  flows  into  the  gulf; 
the  brigantine  was  waiting  for  us  there  at  the  gulf,  and 
we  arrived  about  noon,  so  that  in  one  day  and  one  night 
we  covered  twenty  long  leagues  in  descending  that  river. 
Wishing  to  transfer  the  provisions  from  the  rafts  to  the 
brigantine,  I  found  that  everything  had  been  wet,  and 
seeing  that,  were  it  not  dried,  all  would  be  spoiled  and 
our  labour  lost,  I  had  the  dry  separated  from  the  wet 
and  placed  in  the  brigantine,  while  the  rest  I  placed  in 
the  barque  and  the  canoes  and  sent  it  as  quickly  as 
possible  to  the  town  where  it  might  be  dried;  for,  on 
account  of  the  swamps  about  that  gulf,  there  was  no 
place  there  where  this  could  be  done.  Thus  they  left, 
and  I  ordered  the  canoes  and  barques  to  return  im- 
mediately to  help  me  transport  the  people,  as  the  brigan- 
tine and  one  canoe  which  remained  were  insufficient  to 
carry  them  all. 

After  the  barques  and  canoes  had  left,  I  set  sail,  and 
went  to  the  place  where  my  people  who  had  gone  overland 
were  to  meet  me ;  and  there  I  waited  for  them  three  days, 
at  the  end  of  which  time  they  arrived  in  very  good  con- 
dition, except  for  one  Spaniard,  who,  they  said,  had  eaten 
certain  herbs  on  the  road  and  died  instantly.  They 
brought  with  them  an  Indian  whom  they  had  captured 
in  that  town  where  I  had  left  them;  he  was  going  about 
unguardedly,  and,  as  he  was  different  from  the  natives 
of  the  country  not  only  in  language  but  also  in  dress,  I 

Fifth  Letter  303 

began  to  question  him  by  signs,  when  another  was  found 
among  the  prisoners  who  said  he  could  understand  him; 
and  he  told  me  that  he  was  a  native  of  Teculutlan.  As 
soon  as  I  heard  this  name,  it  seemed  to  me  I  had  heard 
it  mentioned  before,  so,  when  I  reached  the  town,  I 
searched  amongst  my  memoranda  and  found  that  name 
as  belonging  to  a  place  somewhere  across  the  country, 
a  distance  altogether  of  seventy-eight  leagues  from  the 
Spanish  settlement  on  the  South  Sea  governed  by  Pedro 
de  Alvarado,  one  of  my  captains;  it  also  appeared  from 
the  memoranda  that  some  of  Pedro  de  Alvarado's  men 
had  been  in  that  town  of  Teculutlan,  which  indeed  this 
Indian  confirmed;  and  this  news  pleased  me  very  much. 
All  the  people  being  collected,  and  the  boats  not  having 
yet  returned,  we  consumed  the  small  quantity  of  pro- 
visions which  had  been  kept  dry,  and  embarked  on  board 
the  brigantine,  though  the  vessel  was  so  small  that  there 
was  hardly  room  for  us  all.  The  intention  was  to  cross 
the  gulf  to  the  town  where  we  had  first  landed,  and  where 
we  had  seen  the  ripening  maize  fields.  More  than  twenty- 
five  days  having  passed,  we  reasonably  expected  to  find 
it  ripe  enough  for  our  use,  and  so  it  was ;  for,  one  morning, 
we  saw  boats  and  canoes  coming  towards  us  in  the  middle 
of  the  gulf,  and,  continuing  altogether  in  that  direction, 
we  reached  land.  Immediately  after  landing,  all  my 
people,  Spaniards  as  well  as  Indians,  besides  forty  native 
prisoners,  went  straight  to  the  town,  where  they  found 
excellent  maize  fields,  the  greater  part  fully  ripe.  Meeting 
no  opposition,  both  Christians  and  Indians  made  three 
journeys  to  and  fro  that  day,  for  the  distance  was  short, 
carrying  loads  of  grain,  so  that  the  brigantine  being 
filled,  as  well  as  the  boats,  I  went  to  the  town  myself, 
leaving  them  engaged  in  transporting  the  maize.  I  at 
once  sent  the  two  barques,  another  which  had  arrived 
there  with  a  ship  which  had  been  lost  on  the  coast  coming 
to  New  Spain,  and  four  canoes,  to  gather  this  great  har- 

3°4  Letters  of  Cortes 

vest,  which  was  a  most  providential  supply,  repaying 
the  labour  it  cost;  for,  had  it  not  been  found,  we  would 
have  all  inevitably  perished  by  starvation. 

I  had  all  those  provisions  loaded  on  the  ships,  and  em- 
barked with  all  the  people  in  that  town  who  belonged  to 
Gil  Gonzalez,  besides  those  who  remained  of  my  people; 
and  this  being  done  I  set  sail  on  the  [passage  missing  in 
MS.]  day  of  [passage  missing  in  MS.],  and  steered  to 
the  port  on  the  bay  of  San  Andres.  Having  first  landed 
all  those  who  were  able  to  walk  and  two  horses  I  had 
with  me  on  the  ship,  I  ordered  them  to  go  to  the  said 
harbour  and  bay  where  they  would  find,  or  wait  for,  the 
people  who  were  to  come  from  Naco,  for  that  road  had 
been  already  travelled.  The  ships  were  dangerously 
overcrowded,  so  I  sent  a  barque  along  the  coast  to  enable 
them  to  cross  certain  rivers  on  their  road;  and,  when  I 
reached  the  said  port,  I  found  that  the  people  from  Naco 
had  arrived  there  two  days  before  me.  I  learned  from 
them  that  all  the  others  were  well,  and  had  a  great  store 
of  maize  and  red  peppers  and  many  fruits  of  the  country, 
though  they  had  neither  meat  nor  salt,  as  for  two  months 
they  had  not  known  what  those  things  were. 

I  remained  twenty  days  in  this  port,  striving  to  es- 
tablish some  order  amongst  those  people  in  Naco,  and 
Foundation  looking  for  a  convenient  place  to  found  a  settle- 
of  Natividadment;  for  that  port  is  certainly  the  best  which 
exists  along  the  discovered  coast  of  all  this  mainland, 
that  is  to  say  from  the  Gulf  of  Pearls  to  Florida.  God 
willed  that  I  should  find  a  very  good  one,  suitable  for  my 
purpose,  for,  after  I  had  sent  to  explore  some  streams  one 
or  two  leagues  from  the  site  of  this  town,  good  samples 
of  gold  were  found ;  and,  both  on  this  account,  and  also  be- 
cause the  port  was  so  beautiful  and  had  such  an  excellent, 
well-populated  neighbourhood,  it  seemed  to  me  that  it 
would  be  for  Your  Majesty's  good  service  to  found  a 
settlement  here;  I  therefore  sent  a  messenger  to  Naco 

Fifth  Letter  305 

where  the  people  were,  to  learn  if  any  of  them  would  like 
to  settle  there.  The  land  being  good,  about  fifty  of  them, 
mostly  of  those  who  had  come  thither  with  me,  consented, 
and  thus,  in  Your  Majesty's  name,  I  founded  there  a 
town,  which  on  account  of  the  day  of  its  foundation,  being 
the  Nativity  of  Our  Lady,  I  named  Natividad  de  Nuestra 
Senora.  I  appointed  alcaldes  and  municipal  officers, 
leaving  them  a  priest,  church  ornaments,  and  everything 
necessary  for  the  celebration  of  mass;  I  also  left  them 
workmen  and  mechanics,  such  as  a  smith,  with  a  very- 
good  forge,  and  his  necessary  tools,  a  carpenter,  a  ship- 
wright, a  barber,  and  a  tailor.  Among  the  settlers  there 
were  twenty  horsemen  and  some  crossbowmen.  Finally 
I  provided  certain  artillery  and  powder. 

When  I  arrived  at  that  town,  and  heard  from  the 
Spaniards  from  Naco  that  the  natives  of  that  and  the 
neighbouring  towns  were  all  in  a  commotion,  and  had 
fled  from  their  dwellings  to  the  forests,  refusing  to  return, 
although  frequently  invited  to  do  so,  for  they  remembered 
their  injuries  at  the  hands  of  Gil  Gonzales,  Cristobal  de 
Olid,  and  their  men,  I  wrote  to  the  captain  there  to  en- 
deavour by  all  means  to  secure  some  of  those  Indians  and 
send  them  to  me  that  I  might  speak  to  them  and  calm 
them.  He  did  this,  and  sent  me  certain  persons  whom 
he  had  captured  in  a  foray  he  had  made  for  the  purpose. 
I  spoke  to  them,  and  reassured  them,  and  made  some  of 
the  principal  persons  from  Mexico  who  were  with  me 
speak  also  with  them.  These  latter  told  them  who  I  was, 
and  of  what  I  had  done  in  their  country,  and  of  the  good 
treatment  all  had  received  from  me  after  they  became 
my  friends,  and  of  how  they  had  been  protected  and 
maintained  in  justice,  they  and  their  property,  their 
wives  and  children;  they  told  of  the  punishment  which 
those  who  rebelled  against  the  service  of  Your  Majesty 
received,  and  of  many  other  things  which  tended  to 
pacify  the   captured   Indians.     Nevertheless,   they  still 

VOL.   II — SO 

3°6  Letters  of  Cortes 

said  they  were  afraid  that  what  they  had  been  told  was 
not  the  truth,  because  those  captains  who  had  been  there 
before  had  said  the  same  thing  and  afterwards  they  had 
discovered  it  was  all  a  lie ;  for  the  women  whom  they  had 
given  them  to  make  their  bread  had  been  kept,  as  well 
as  the  men  who  carried  their  baggage,  and  they  feared  I 
would  do  the  same.  Still  they  were  reassured  by  what  the 
Mexicans  and  my  interpreter  told  them,  and  by  observing 
that  they  were  all  well  treated  and  happy  in  our  company, 
so  they  grew  a  little  more  confident.  I  sent  them  to 
speak  to  the  chiefs  and  people  of  the  towns,  and,  a  few 
days  later,  the  captain  wrote  me  that  some  of  the  neigh- 
bouring towns  had  come  peaceably,  especially  the  chief 
ones,  which  are  Naco,  where  they  are  stationed,  Quimiot- 
lan,  Suli,  and  Tholomi,  the  smallest  of  which  numbered 
more  than  two  thousand  households,  besides  other  villages 
depending  on  them ;  they  had  said  that  they  would  later 
all  peaceably  return  to  their  homes,  for  messengers  had 
been  sent  to  reassure  them,  and  let  them  know  of  my 
arrival  and  of  all  I  had  told  them,  and  what  they  had 
learned  from  the  natives  of  Mexico.  They  also  greatly 
desired  I  should  visit  them,  for  the  people  would  be 
more  reassured  by  my  presence.  This  I  would  willingly 
have  done  had  I  not  been  obliged  to  go  on  and  re- 
establish order  elsewhere,  concerning  which  I  will  relate 
to  Your  Majesty  in  the  following  chapter. 

Upon  my  arrival,  Invincible  Caesar,  at  that  town  of 
Nito,  where  I  found  the  lost  people  of  Gil  Gonzalez,  I 
News  from  learnt  from  them  that  Francisco  de  las  Casas, 
the  Colony  one  of  my  lieutenants,  whom  I  had  sent  to  in- 
of  Honduras  quire  about  Cristobal  de  Olid  and  his  men, 
as  I  have  already  related  to  Your  Majesty,  had  left 
certain  Spaniards  down  the  coast  at  a  port  which  the 
pilots  called  Las  Honduras;  these  Spaniards  no  doubt 
were  still  there.  As  soon  as  I  reached  that  town 
and   bay   of    San   Andres,    where,    in   Your   Majesty's 

Fifth  Letter  307 

name,  I  established  a  town  called  Natividad  de 
Nuestra  Sefiora,  I  delayed  there  to  organise  the  settlement 
of  it,  and  likewise  to  give  orders  to  the  captain  and  people 
in  Naco  concerning  the  measures  they  should  take  for  the 
pacification  and  security  of  those  other  towns.  I  sent 
the  ship  I  had  bought  to  the  said  port  of  Honduras  to 
inquire  after  those  other  people,  and  bring  me  informa- 
tion. By  the  time  the  above  mentioned  orders  were 
executed,  the  ship  returned,  bringing  the  procurator  of 
the  town  and  an  officer  of  the  Municipal  Council,  who 
besought  me  earnestly  to  go  there  and  relieve  them, 
because  they  were  in  extreme  need.  The  captain  ap- 
pointed by  Francisco  de  las  Casas  and  a  judge  whom  he 
had  likewise  nominated,  had  rebelled  and  taken  possession 
of  a  ship,  then  in  the  harbour,  and  had  persuaded  fifty 
out  of  the  hundred  and  ten  colonists  to  follow  them, 
leaving  the  others  without  weapons  or  iron  tools  of  any 
sort ;  taking  away  also  almost  everything  they  owned ;  so 
that  they  were  in  great  fear  either  that  the  Indians  would 
kill  them,  or  that  they  would  starve  to  death,  for  they 
were  unable  to  procure  provisions.  A  vessel  from  the 
island  of  Espanola,  owned  by  a  man  called  the  Bachelor 
Francisco  Moreno,  had  since  arrived  there;  but,  though 
they  had  besought  him  to  provide  them  with  neces- 
saries he  had  refused,  as  I  would  more  fully  learn  when 
I  came  to  that  town.  To  correct  all  this,  I  embarked 
in  my  ships,  with  all  my  suffering  people  (some  of  whom 
had  meanwhile  died) ,  it  being  my  intention  to  send  them 
from  that  place  to  the  Islands  and  to  New  Spain,  as  I 
afterwards  did.  I  took  with  me  some  of  my  own  house- 
hold servants,  and  gave  orders  that  twenty  horsemen 
and  ten  crossbowmen  should  go  overland,  as  I  heard  that 
the  road  to  the  village  was  good,  although  they  would 
have  to  cross  some  rivers. 

It  took  me  nine  days  to  arrive,  owing  to  unfavourable 
weather,  and,  having  cast  anchor  in  the  port  of  Honduras, 

308  Letters  of  Cortes 

I  entered  a  boat  with  two  Franciscan  friars,  whom  I 
always  took  with  me,  and  about  ten  servants  of  mine; 
and  thus  we  went  on  land  where  the  people  of  the  town 
were  in  the  square  awaiting  me.  As  I  neared  shore, 
they  all  rushed  into  the  sea  and  lifting  me  out  of  the  boat 
they  carried  me  to  the  town  and  church  with  every 
demonstration  of  welcome.  After  having  given  thanks 
to  our  Lord,  they  prayed  me  to  stop  and  hear  their 
account  of  all  that  had  transpired,  for  they  feared  that 
in  consequence  of  misrepresentations  which  might  have 
been  made  to  me,  I  might  be  vexed  with  them,  and  they 
wished  me  to  know  the  truth  before  I  judged  them.  I 
assented  to  this  and  their  priest  rose  and  spoke  to  me  as 
follows : — 

Sir,  you  know  how  all,  or  almost  all,  of  us  who  are  here, 
were  sent  from  New  Spain  under  your  captain  Cristobal  de 
History  of  Olid  'to  se"ttle  and  populate  this  country  in  the 
Olid's  name  of  His  Majesty,  and  that  you  ordered  us  to 

rebellion  obey  the  commands  of  the  said  Cristobal  de 
Olid  as  though  they  were  your  own.  Thus,  we  left  for  the 
island  of  Cuba,  where  we  were  to  take  in  some  provisions 
and  horses  that  were  still  requisite;  and,  having  arrived 
at  Havana,  which  is  a  port  of  the  said  island,  he  exchanged 
letters  with  Diego  Velasquez  and  His  Majesty's  officers  resid- 
ing there,  who  sent  him  some  more  people.  After  we  were 
provisioned  with  what  we  required,  all  of  which  was  provided 
through  your  agent,  Alonzo  de  Contreros,  we  left  the  island 
and   continued  our  voyage. 

Omitting  some  incidents  of  our  voyage,  too  tedious  to  be 
related,  we  landed  on  this  coast,  fourteen  leagues  below  the 
port  of  Caballos,  where  the  said  captain  Cristobal  de  Olid 
took  possession  for  your  worship,  and  in  the  name  of  His 
Majesty,  establishing  a  town  with  its  alcaldes  and  municipal 
officers,  who  had  already  been  nominated  at  the  outset.  He 
executed  certain  official  acts  regarding  the  possession  and 
laying  out  of  the  town,  acting  in  the  name  of  your  worship 
and  as  your  captain  and  lieutenant.     Some  days  later,  how- 

Fifth  Letter  309 

ever,  he  made  common  cause  with  those  servants  of  Diego 
Velasquez,  who  had  come  with  him,  and  went  through  certain 
formalities  which  made  it  clear  that  he  had  renounced  obedi- 
ence to  your  worship;  although  most  of  us  disapproved  of 
this,  we  did  not  dare  to  oppose  him  because  he  threatened 
us  with  the  gallows,  but,  on  the  contrary,  we  consented  to  all 
he  did,  the  more  so  as  certain  servants  and  relatives  of  your 
worship  did  the  same,  for  neither  did  they  dare  to  act  other- 
wise. This  being  accomplished,  and,  having  heard  from  six 
messengers  whom  he  caused  to  be  imprisoned,  that  certain 
people  of  Gil  Gonzalez  de  Avila  were  coming  down  upon  him, 
he  stationed  himself  near  the  ford  of  a  river  where  they  had 
to  cross,  so  as  to  capture  them. 

After  waiting  some  days  in  vain,  he  left  there  a  lieutenant 
with  some  force,  and  returned  to  this  town,  where  he  began 
to  fit  out  two  caravels,  and  to  provide  them'  with  artillery 
and  ammunition,  intending  to  attack  the  settlement  of  Span- 
iards, which  the  said  Gil  Gonzalez  had  founded  higher  up 
the  coast.  While  thus  engaged,  Francisco  de  las  Casas 
arrived  with  two  ships,  and,  as  soon  as  Cristobal  de  Olid  knew 
that  it  was  he,  he  ordered  the  artillery  on  his  ships  to  fire  on 
him,  in  spite  of  the  fact  that  Francisco  de  las  Casas  hoisted 
flags  of  peace,  and  shouted  the  information  that  his  ships 
belonged  to  your  worship.  The  artillery,  however,  con- 
tinued to  play  under  his  orders,  and,  after  the  ships  had 
anchored,  he  still  fired  ten  or  twelve  shots,  one  of  which 
went  through  one  of  the  vessels  and  came  out  on  the  other 
side.  When  Francisco  de  las  Casas  perceived  his  intentions 
to  be  hostile,  the  suspicions  he  already  entertained  against 
Olid  were  confirmed,  and  he  saw  he  could  not  temporise 
with  such  an  enemy;  so  he  manned  his  boats  and  began  to 
use  his  artillery,  taking  possession  of  those  two  vessels  that 
were  in  the  port  as  their  crews  had  deserted  them  and  gone 
ashore.  After  these  ships  were  taken,  Cristobal  de  Olid  be- 
gan to  sue  for  terms,  not,  however,  with  the  intention  of  ob- 
serving them,  but  to  temporise  until  the  men  he  had  sent 
against  Gil  Gonzalez  de  Avila  should  return,  for  he  did  not 
feel  himself  strong  enough  to  cope  with  Las  Casas;  he,  there- 
fore, sought  to  deceive  him,  and  Las  Casas  allowed  himself 

310  Letters  of  Cortes 

to  be  hood-winked.  During  these  inconclusive  negotiations 
a  great  tempest  suddenly  arose  at  sea,  and,  as  there  was  no 
proper  anchorage,  but  only  an  unsheltered  coast,  the  ship  on 
board  of  which  Francisco  de  las  Casas  was,  was  dashed  on 
shore,  thirty  odd  men  being  drowned,  and  almost  everything 
they  had  being  lost.  Las  Casas  and  the  others  escaped 
naked  and  so  bruised  by  the  waves  that  they  could  not  keep 
their  feet,  so  Cristobal  de  Olid  took  them  all  prisoners;  and, 
before  they  entered  the  town,  he  made  them  swear  on  the 
Holy  Gospels  that  they  would  obey  him  and  regard  him  as 
their  captain  ever  afterwards,  doing  nothing  against  his  will. 

Just  then  the  news  came  that  his  lieutenant  had  captured 
fifty-seven  men  and  an  alcalde  mayor  of  Gil  Gonzalez  de 
Avila,  and  had  afterwards  set  them  free  again,  allowing  them 
to  go  one  way  while  he  with  his  men  took  another.  Rendered 
furious  by  hearing  that  his  orders  had  not  been  obeyed,  Cris- 
tobal de  Olid  left  for  Naco,  where  he  had  formerly  been, 
taking  with  him  Francisco  de  las  Casas  and  some  of  his  men, 
and  leaving  the  other  prisoners  under  guard  of  a  lieutenant 
and  an  alcalde.  Las  Casas,  in  the  presence  of  all,  entreated 
him  to  allow  him  to  return  to  your  worship,  and  give  an 
account  of  what  had  happened;  for  otherwise  he  must  keep 
him  under  strict  guard  and  not  trust  him,  as  he  would  do  his 
best  to  escape.  Some  days  later,  Cristobal  de  Olid  learned 
that  Gil  Gonzalez  and  a  few  of  his  men  had  settled  at  the 
port  called  Tholoma,  so  he  sent  certain  people  thither,  who 
attacked  Gonzalez  by  night  and  captured  him  as  well  as 
those  who  were  with  him,  bringing  them  prisoners.  Thus 
both  these  captains  were  kept  there  many  days,  Cristobal 
de  Olid  refusing  to  set  them  free,  although  he  was  begged 
many  times  to  do  so.  He  also  made  all  the  people  of  Gil 
Gonzalez  swear  to  obey  him  as  their  captain,  just  as  he  had 
already  done  with  those  of  Francisco  de  las  Casas. 

Many  times,  after  the  imprisonment  of  Gil  Gonzalez,  did 
Francisco  de  las  Casas  beg  him  in  everybody's  presence,  to 
Execution  set  ^m  an0^  n^s  companions  at  liberty,  saying  that 
of  Cristobal  otherwise  he  had  better  be  on  his  guard  for  they 
de  Olid  would  kill  him ;  but  he  would  never  consent  to  do  so, 
until  his  tyranny  had  gone  so  far  that  one  night,  when  they 

Fifth  Letter  311 

were  all  together  in  a  hall,  and  many  other  people  were  with 
them  discussing  certain  matters,  Francisco  de  las  Casas  seized 
him  by  the  beard  and  having  no  other  arms,  he  stabbed  him 
with  a  penknife  with  which  he  had  been  cutting  his  nails  while 
walking  up  and  down,  crying  at  the  same  time,  "The  time  is 
already  passed  for  suffering  this  tyranny ! "  Gil  Gonzalez  and 
others  of  your  worship's  servants  joined  with  him  and  disarmed 
the  body-guard,  and,  in  the  scuffle  which  ensued,  Cristobal  de 
Olid,  the  captain  and  ensign  of  his  body  guard,  his  field-officer, 
and  others,  were  wounded,  taken  prisoners,  and  disarmed, 
though  none  were  killed.  In  the  midst  of  the  confusion, 
Cristobal  de  Olid  escaped  and  hid  himself,  while  the  captains, 
within  two  hours,  pacified  the  people  and  secured  the  persons 
of  his  principal  adherents ;  and  they  proclaimed  by  the  public 
crier  that,  whoever  knew  where  Cristobal  de  Olid  was  hidden, 
should  declare  it  immediately  under  penalty  of  death.  They 
quickly  learnt  where  he  was,  and  captured  him,  placing  him 
under  good  guard ;  and  on  the  next  morning,  after  giving  him 
his  trial,  the  captains  agreed  in  sentencing  him  to  death. 
This  was  executed  on  his  person  by  cutting  off  his  head,  to 
the  great  satisfaction  of  the  people  who  were  thus  liberated. 
It  was  then  proclaimed  by  the  public  crier  that  all  who 
wished  to  settle  in  this  country  should  say  so,  and  that  those 
who  wished  to  leave  should  do  likewise;  one  hundred  and 
ten  men  said  they  desired  to  settle,  and  the  others  said  they 
would  go  with  Francisco  de  las  Casas  and  Gil  Gonzalez  who 
were  about  to  return  to  your  worship.  Among  these  former, 
there  were  twenty  horsemen  to  which  number  I  and  all  those 
here  present  belonged.  Francisco  de  las  Casas  provided  us 
with  everything  we  needed,  appointed  a  captain  over  us,  and 
directed  us  to  come  to  this  coast  and  colonise  for  your  wor- 
ship, in  the  name  of  His  Majesty;  and  he  nominated  sheriffs, 
municipal  officers,  a  notary  public,  a  procurator  of  the  town 
council,  and  an  alguacil,  ordering  us  to  call  the  town  Tru- 
jillo ;  he  promised  us  and  pledged  his  faith  as  a  gentleman,  that 
he  would  procure  from  your  worship  more  people  and  arms 
and  horses  for  the  pacification  of  the  country.  He,  moreover, 
left  us  two  interpreters,  an  Indian  woman  and  a  Christian, 
who  understood  very  well  the  languages  hereabouts.     Thus, 

3 1 2  Letters  of  Cortes 

we  took  leave  of  him  and  came  here  as  he  had  ordered  us  to 
do;  and  to  inform  your  worship  the  more  quickly,  he  des- 
patched the  brigantine  so  that  assistance  might  reach  us 
the  sooner. 

Having  arrived  at  the  port  of  San  Andres,  also  called  Ca- 
ballos,  we  found  there  a  caravel  which  had  recently  come 
from  the  Islands;  and,  as  that  port  did  not  seem  to  us  the 
proper  place  for  a  settlement,  and  as  we  had  heard  about  this 
one,  we  loaded  all  our  heavy  baggage  on  to  that  caravel  and 
embarked,  taking  with  us  the  captain  and  forty  men,  while 
the  horsemen  and  others  remained  on  land,  keeping  nothing 
but  the  clothes  on  our  backs,  so  as  to  be  freer  and  unencum- 
bered in  case  of  accident  on  our  march.  The  captain  gave 
his  full  powers  to  one  of  the  alcaldes,  who  is  now  here  present, 
whom  he  ordered  us  to  obey  during  his  absence;  the  other 
municipal  officers  went  with  him  in  the  caravel.  Thus  we 
parted  from  each  other  to  meet  again  in  this  port,  and,  during 
our  march,  we  had  some  encounters  with  the  natives  who 
killed  two  Spaniards  and  some  of  the  Indians  whom  we  had 
brought  for  our  service. 

Upon  arriving  in  a  dreadful  plight  at  this  port,  the  horses 
unshod,  but  all  of  us  happy  in  the  expectation  of  rinding  the 
captain  with  our  baggage  and  arms,  we  were  more  than 
afflicted  to  find  nothing  at  all,  while  we  were  ourselves  almost 
stark  naked,  destitute  of  arms  and  iron  tools,  all  of  which  the 
captain  had  taken  in  the  caravel.  We  were  perplexed  and 
knew  not  what  to  do  with  ourselves,  until,  after  consulting 
together,  we  decided  to  wait  for  the  relief  which  was  to  come 
from  your  worship,  about  which  we  entertained  no  doubts. 
So  we  immediately  set  about  founding  our  town  and  took 
possession  of  the  country  for  your  worship,  in  the  name  of  His 
Majesty,  as  your  worship  may  see  from  the  official  acts  drawn 
up  before  the  notary  public  of  the  municipal  council. 

Five  or  six  days  later,  a  caravel  appeared  at  sea,  about 
two  leagues  from  this  place,  and  the  alguacil  immediately 
went  in  a  canoe  to  discover  what  caravel  it  was;  and  he 
brought  us  news  that  it  belonged  to  the  bachelor  in  law, 
Pedro  Moreno,  a  resident  of  Espanola,  who  came  by  the 
order  of  the  judges  residing  in  that  island,  for  the  purpose 

Fifth  Letter  313 

of  inquiring  into  certain  matters  between  Cristobal  de  Olid 
and  Gil  Gonzalez.  He  brought  a  full  stock  of  provisions 
and  arms  which  belonged  to  His  Majesty;  and  we  all  rejoiced 
greatly  at  this  news,  giving  thanks  to  our  Lord,  and  believing 
that  our  necessities  would  be  relieved.  The  municipal  officers 
and  some  of  the  householders  immediately  went  and  be- 
sought him  to  provide  for  us,  explaining  our  miserable  plight ; 
but,  upon  their  arrival,  he  armed  the  men  on  his  caravel  and 
would  allow  no  one  to  go  on  board,  so  the  most  we  could 
obtain  from  him  was  that  four  or  five  without  arms  should 
go  aboard.  They  first  explained  to  him  how  we  had  come 
there  to  settle  for  your  worship,  in  the  name  of  His  Majesty, 
and  that,  on  account'  of  the  captain  having  left  in  a  caravel 
with  all  we  owned,  we  were  in  the  utmost  extremity,  as  well 
for  want  of  provisions,  arms,  and  iron  tools,  as  for  clothing 
and  other  things,  and  that  in  as  much  as  God  had  conducted 
him  hither  for  our  relief  and  his  caravel  belonged  to 
His  Majesty,  we  prayed  and  besought  him  to  provide  for  us, 
as  by  so  doing  he  would  serve  His  Majesty,  besides  which 
we  bound  ourselves  to  pay  for  everything  he  gave  us.  He 
answered  that  he  had  not  come  there  for  the  purpose  of 
relieving  us,  and  would  give  us  nothing  unless  we  paid  cash 
down  in  gold  or  gave  him  slaves  in  payment. 

Two  merchants  who  had  come  on  the  ship,  and  a  certain 
Gaspard  Roche,  a  resident  of  the  island  of  San  Juan,  advised 
him  to  give  us  what  we  asked  for,  offering  to  stand  surety 
for  the  payment,  up  to  five  or  six  thousand  castellanos, 
within  such  period  as  he  should  fix  as  they  knew  we  were  able 
to  pay,  and  they  were  willing  to  do  this  in  Your  Majesty's 
service ;  they  likewise  felt  sure  that  your  worship  would  repay 
them,  besides  being  grateful  for  it.  Not  even  then,  however, 
would  he  give  us  the  least  thing,  but  he  sent  us  away  saying 
he  intended  to  leave;  and  thus  actually  put  us  out  of  his 

Afterwards,  he  sent  one  Juan  Ruano,  who  had  come  with 
him,  and  had  been  the  principal  promoter  of  Cristobal  de 
Olid's  treason ;  he  secretly  spoke  to  the  munici-  Intrusion  of 
pal  officers  and  some  of  us,  telling  us  that,  if  we  Juan  Ruano 
would  obey  him,  he  would  obtain  all  we  needed  from  the  bach- 

314  Letters  of  Cortes 

elor,  and  that,  on  his  return  to  Espanola  he  would  even  obtain 
orders  from  the  judges  residing  there  that  we  should  not  have 
to  pay  for  anything,  and  that,  besides,  reinforcements  of  men 
and  horses  and  supplies  of  arms  and  provisions  and  other  neces- 
saries should  be  sent  to  us;  that  the  bachelor  would  quickly 
return,  bringing  us  all  this  and  full  powers  from  the  judges 
to  be  our  captain.  Having  asked  him  what  we  were  required 
to  do  in  return,  he  answered  that  first  of  all  we  were  to  depose 
from  their  respective  charges  the  royal  officers,  the  alcaldes, 
the  municipal  officials,  the  treasurer,  the  accountants,  and 
the  inspector,  all  of  whom  exercised  their  functions  in  the 
name  of  your  worship ;  that  after  this,  we  must  ask  the  said 
bachelor  to  appoint  as  our  captain  the  said  Juan  Ruano,  and 
declare  that  we  wished  to  come  under  the  government  of  the 
audiencia  instead  of  under  that  of  your  worship;  that  we 
must  all  sign  this  petition  and  give  our  oaths  to  obey  him, 
Ruano,  as  our  captain,  binding  ourselves  not  only  to  refuse 
obedience  to  any  representations  or  orders  of  your  worship 
but  also  to  resist  with  force  of  arms.  We  answered  that 
we  could  not  do  this,  for  we  had  already  taken  another  oath, 
and  were  settled  there  for  your  worship,  in  His  Majesty's 
name,  as  his  captain  and  governor,  and  that  we  could  not 
act  otherwise. 

The  said  Juan  Ruano  sought  to  persuade  us  that  it  was 
better  to  consent  than  to  be  left  to  die ;  for  the  bachelor  would 
not  give  us  a  jar  of  water,  nor  a  morsel  of  bread,  and  we  might 
rest  assured  that  upon,  learning  of  our  refusal,  he  would  sail 
away  and  leave  us  to  destruction,  hence  we  should  look  well 
to  our  decision.  Thus  we  took  council,  and,  coerced  by  want 
we  agreed  to  all  he  asked  of  us,  rather  than  starve  or  be  killed 
by  the  Indians,  being,  as  we  were,  entirely  unarmed;  so  we 
answered  Ruano  that  we  had  decided  to  do  what  he  required 
of  us.  He  returned  therefore  to  the  caravel,  and  the  said 
bachelor  landed,  with  many  armed  people;  and  Juan  Ruano 
had  a  petition  drawn  up  before  the  notary  of  the  place,  signed 
by  almost  every  one  of  us,  under  oath,  to  the  effect  that  the 
municipal  officials,  the  treasurer,  the  accountant,  and  the 
inspector,  resigned  their  respective  offices,  and  that  the  name 
of  the  town  waschanged  to  that  of  Ascension;  he  drew  up 

Fifth  Letter  315 

certain  official  acts  by  which  we  acknowledged  our  allegiance 
to  the  audiencia  instead  of  to  your  worship.  He  immediately 
furnished  us  with  all  we  had  asked  for,  and  ordered  an  ex- 
pedition to  be  made,  in  which  we  captured  certain  natives, 
whom  he  branded  as  slaves  and  took  with  him,  without  even 
allowing  that  the  fifth  of  them  should  be  paid  to  His  Majesty, 
ordering  that  henceforth  there  should  be  no  treasurer  nor 
accountant,  nor  inspector  for  the  royal  dues,  but  that  the 
said  Juan  Ruano,  whom  he  left  as  our  captain,  should  take  all 
responsibility  on  himself,  without  keeping  any  further  books 
or  accounts. 

Thus,  he  left  us  under  command  of  the  said  Juan  Ruano, 
furnished  with  certain  requirements  to  be  used  in  case  any 
people  should  come  here  from  your  worship ;  and  he  promised 
to  return  quickly  with  such  full  powers  that  no  one  could 
resist  them.  After  he  had  gone,  we  perceived  that  what  we 
had  done  was  not  for  the  advantage  of  His  Majesty's  service, 
so  we  apprehended  the  said  Juan  Ruano,  and  sent  him  to  the 
Islands,  after  which  the  alcalde  and  municipal  officers  resumed 
their  functions  as  formerly,  and,  since  then,  we  have  been, 
and  are,  under  your  worship's  orders,  in  His  Majesty's  name. 
We  pray  you,  Sir,  to  pardon  us  the  past  matters,  respecting 
Cristobal  de  Olid,  because,  throughout,  we  were  compelled 
by  force  to  act  in  this  manner. 

I  replied  to  this  address,  saying  that  I  would  pardon 
them,  in  Your  Majesty's  name,  for  all  that  had  transpired 
under  Cristobal  de  Olid,  and  that  their  recent  conduct 
was  not  blamable  as  they  had  been  constrained  by  want ; 
but  that,  henceforth,  they  were  to  abstain  from  similar 
novelties  and  scandals,  for  they  were  injurious  to  Your 
Majesty's  service,  and  would  bring  punishment  upon 
them.  In  order  to  more  fully  convince  them  that  I  had 
forgotten  the  past,  and  would  never  more  remember  it, 
but  would  rather  aid  and  favour  them,  in  Your  Majesty's 
name,  as  long  as  they  acted  as  loyal  vassals  to  Your 
Majesty,  I  confirmed,  in  Your  Royal  name,  the  alcaldes 
and   municipal   officers  whom    Francisco  de  las  Casas, 

316  Letters  of  Cortes 

acting  as  my  lieutenant,  had  appointed ;  all  of  which  fully 
satisfied  them,  and  banished  their  fear  of  ever  again 
being  questioned  for  their  past  faults. 

As  they  assured  me  that  the  said  bachelor,  Moreno, 
would  soon  return  with  many  people,  fully  empowered 
by  the  audiencia,  residing  in  Espafiola,  I  did  not  leave 
the  port.  I  was  informed  by  the  residents  that  they  had 
had  certain  conflicts  with  the  natives,  some  six  or  seven 
leagues  distant  in  the  interior,  when  they  had  gone  to 
search  for  food.  They  said  that  some  of  the  natives, 
however,  were  more  peaceably  inclined  than  others; 
for,  although  they  had  no  interpreter  through  whom  to 
talk  with  them,  they  had  shown  their  good  will  and 
friendship  by  means  of  signs;  also  that  no  doubt  these 
people,  being  spoken  to  by  one  who  knew  their  language, 
might  be  easily  won  over,  although  they  had  been  several 
times  ill-treated,  as  the  Spaniards  had  taken  from  them 
certain  women  and  boys  whom  the  bachelor,  Moreno,  had 
branded  with  a  hot  iron  as  slaves,  and  carried  off  in 
his  ship. 

God  knows  how  grieved  I  was  by  this  news,  knowing 
the  great  mischief  that  would  ensue  from  it.  I  wrote, 
Cortes  therefore,  to   the    audiencia  of   Espafiola   by 

Writes  to  the  the  vessels  I  sent  to  that  island,  complain- 
Audiencia  jng  about  the  bachelor,  Moreno,  and  enclos- 
ing a  written  statement  of  all  his  misdeeds  in  that 
town  and  its  neighbourhood,  besides  certain  legal 
requirements  on  the  part  of  Your  Majesty,  in  which 
I  demanded  that  the  bachelor  be  sent  here  a  pris- 
oner in  chains  (and  with  him  all  the  natives  of  this 
country  who  had  been  carried  off  as  slaves)  because  he 
had  outraged  all  the  laws,  as  they  could  see  by  the 
proofs  I  remitted  to  them.  I  do  not  know  what  they 
will  do  about  it,  but  I  will  communicate  their  decision 
to  Your  Majesty. 

Two  days  after  I  arrived  at  this  port  of  Trujillo,  I  sent 

Fifth  Letter  317 

a  Spaniard,  who  understood  the  language,  and  three 
Indians  of  Culua  with  him,  to  those  towns  which  the 
settlers  had  mentioned  to  me,  instructing  the  Spaniards 
and  Indians  very  exactly  what  they  were  to  say  to  the 
chiefs  and  natives  of  the  said  towns,  and  especially  that 
I  myself  had  come  to  those  parts ;  for  owing  to  the  great 
traffic  many  people  there  had  heard  of  me  and  of  the 
events  in  Mexico.  The  first  towns  they  visited  were 
Chapagua  and  Papayeca,  which  are  seven  leagues  from 
Trujillo,  and  two  leagues  distant  from  one  another.  They 
are  the  principal  towns,  as  I  afterwards  learned,  for  Papay- 
eca has  eighteen  villages  subject  to  it,  and  Chapagua  has 
ten;  and  Our  Lord,  Who  our  daily  experience  shows  us 
has  especial  care  of  Your  Majesty's  affairs,  was  pleased 
that  they  should  receive  the  embassy  with  great  defer- 
ence, and  they  sent  with  my  messengers,  others  of  their 
own  who  might  verify  if  all  they  had  been  told  was  true. 
I  received  them  very  well  upon  their  arrival,  and  again 
spoke  to  them  through  the  interpreter  whom  I  had  with 
me;  for  their  language  and  that  of  Culua  is  almost  one 
and  the  same,  except  that  they  differ  somewhat  in  pro- 
nunciation and  in  some  few  words.  I  again  assured 
them  of  all  that  my  messengers  had  told  them  in  my 
name,  adding  other  things  which  it  seemed  suitable  they 
should  know,  and  which  tended  to  inspire  their  confidence; 
and  I  earnestly  besought  them  to  tell  their  chiefs  to  come 
to  see  me.  They  took  leave  of  me  entirely  satisfied,  and 
five  days  later  a  chief,  called  Montanal,  came  on  behalf  of 
those  of  Chapagua,  he,  himself,  being  as  it  appeared  the 
chief  of  one  of  the  subject  towns,  called  Telika;  and 
another  lord  of  a  subject  town,  called  Cecoath,  came  on 
behalf  of  those  of  Papayeca,  accompanied  by  some  na- 
tives, who  brought  me  provisions  of  maize  and  fowls  and 
fruits,  saying  they  had  come  on  behalf  of  their  chiefs 
to  learn  what  I  wished,  and  the  reason  of  my  coming  to 
their  country.     The  chiefs  had  not  come  in  person  to  see 

318  Letters  of  Cortes 

me,  fearing  that  they  might  be  taken  on  board  the  ships 
as  had  happened  to  certain  of  their  people  who  had  been 
captured  by  the  first  Christians  who  came  there.  I  told 
them  what  grief  that  event  had  caused  me,  and  that  they 
might  be  sure  such  an  outrage  would  not  again  happen, 
for  I  would  send  for  those  who  had  been  carried  off  and 
have  them  returned. 

May  God  grant  that  the  lawyers  at  Espanola  will  not 
make  me  forfeit  my  word  to  those  Indians,  though  I 
greatly  fear  they  will  not  send  them  back  to  me,  but  will 
rather  seek  some  way  to  exculpate  the  bachelor,  Moreno, 
who  captured  them;  for  I  do  not  believe  that  he  acted 
otherwise  than  according  to  what  they  instructed  and 
ordered  him. 

In  answer  to  the  question  of  those  messengers  re- 
specting my  purpose  in  coming  to  that  country,  I  said 
that  they  should  know  how,  about  eight  years  before, 
I  had  arrived  in  the  province  of  Culua  where  Montezuma 
then  ruled  the  great  city  of  Temixtitan,  and  all  of  that 
country;  being  informed  by  me  of  the  greatness  and 
power  of  Your  Majesty,  to  whom  the  universal  world  was 
subject,  and  of  my  having  been  sent  to  visit  his  country 
in  the  royal  name  of  Your  Excellency,  he  immediately 
received  me  very  kindly  and  recognised  what  he  owed 
to  Your  greatness;  and  that  all  the  other  lords  in  the 
country  had  done  the  same.  I  recounted  to  them  other 
things  regarding  this  matter  which  had  happened  to  me 
here,  and  that  I  was  ordered  by  Your  Majesty  to  see  and 
visit  all  these  countries  without  exception,  and  to  es- 
tablish towns  of  Christians  in  them,  who  would  teach  the 
people  the  best  way  to  live,  not  only  for  the  provision 
of  their  persons  and  property,  but  also  for  the  salvation 
of  their  souls,  and  that  this  was  the  cause  of  my  coming; 
that  they  might  be  sure  that  no  mischief  would  follow 
from  it,  but  a  great  deal  of  good,  for  those  who  obeyed 
the   royal   mandates   of   Your   Majesty   would   be   well 

Fifth  Letter  319 

treated  and  maintained  in  justice,  while  those  who  rebelled 
would  be  punished.  I  told  them  many  other  things 
to  this  purpose,  which  I  do  not  repeat  here  on  account 
of  their  small  importance,  and  to  avoid  annoying  Your 
Majesty  by  too  much  writing. 

I  gave  these  messengers  some  small  presents  which 
they  esteem,  although  with  us  they  are  of  little  value, 
and  they  took  their  leave  very  content.  Soon  after, 
in  response  to  my  request,  they  returned  with  provisions 
and  people  to  clear  the  site  of  the  town,  which  was  situ- 
ated on  a  great  mountain.  None  of  their  chiefs,  however, 
came  to  visit  me;  but  I  took  no  notice  of  this,  treating 
the  matter  of  their  coming  as  quite  indifferent  to  me, 
though  I  requested  them  to  send  messengers  to  all  the 
neighbouring  towns  to  publish  what  I  had  told  them, 
asking  the  people  to  come  to  help  in  settling  that  town, 
all  of  which  they  did.  So,  within  a  few  days,  fifteen  or 
sixteen  towns,  or  rather  independent  lordships,  in  that 
vicinity  came,  with  many  demonstrations  of  good  will, 
offering  themselves  as  vassals  and  subjects  of  Your  High- 
ness, and  bringing  people  to  help  clear  the  ground  for 
the  town,  as  well  as  with  provisions  to  sustain  us  until 
the  assistance  arrived  with  the  ships  I  had  sent  to  the 

At  this  time,  I  sent  the  three  ships  I  had  with  me,  be- 
sides another  one  which  afterwards  came,  and  which  I 
bought,  to  carry  all  the  invalids  to  the  ports  Fate  of  the 
of  New  Spain;  and  with  the  first  I  wrote  Four  Ships 
fully  to  Your  Majesty's  officers  whom  I  had  left  in 
command  there,  as  well  as  to  the  municipalities, 
giving  them  an  account  of  what  I  had  done,  and 
saying  that  I  was  obliged  to  absent  myself  some- 
what longer  in  these  parts ;  praying  and  charging  them 
to  fulfil  the  duties  of  their  offices,  and  giving  them 
my  advice  upon  certain  matters.  I  ordered  this  ship 
to  return  by  way  of  Cozumel,  which  was  on  the  route, 

320  Letters  of  Cortes 

and  to  pick  up  certain  Spaniards  there,  whom  a  certain 
Valenzuela,  who  had  rebelled  and  robbed  the  first  town 
which  Cristobal  de  Olid  had  founded  and  abandoned, 
had  left  there;  according  to  my  information,  they  were 
about  sixty  persons.  I  sent  the  other  ship,  which  I 
had  lately  bought  in  the  small  bay  near  the  town,  to 
Trinidad,  on  the  island  of  Cuba,  to  load  with  maize  and 
horses  and  people,  and  to  return  as  quickly  as  possible; 
the  other  I  sent  to  the  island  of  Jamaica  for  the  same 
purpose.  The  large  caravel,  or  brigantine,  which  I, 
myself,  had  built,  I  despatched  to  Espafiola,  and  on 
board  was  a  servant  of  mine,  bearing  letters  for  Your 
Majesty  and  for  the  audiencia  residing  in  that  island. 
But,  as  afterwards  appeared,  none  of  these  ships  reached 
their  destination;  for  the  one  bound  to  Cuba  and  Trinidad 
had  to  put  in  at  the  port  of  Guaniguanico,  and  her  crew 
had  to  come  by  land  to  Havana,  a  distance  of  about 
fifty  leagues,  in  search  of  cargo.  This  one  was  the  first 
to  return,  and  it  brought  me  news  of  how  the  other  ship, 
after  taking  on  board  the  people  at  Cozumel,  had  been 
wrecked  on  the  coast  of  Cuba,  near  a  cape  called  San 
Anton,  or  Corrientes,  everything  being  lost,  and  most  of 
her  crew  drowned,  including  a  cousin  of  mine,  Juan 
de  Avalos,  her  commander  and  the  two  Franciscan 
friars  who  accompanied  my  expedition,  besides  thirty- 
four  more  people  whose  names  I  preserved.  Those  who 
had  been  saved  were  wandering,  lost  in  the  forest,  not 
knowing  where  they  were,  and  almost  all  had  died  of 
starvation;  so  that,  out  of  eighty  odd  persons,  only  fifteen 
survived,  who,  by  good  luck,  reached  that  port  of  Guani- 
guanico where  my  ship  was  lying.  Close  at  hand,  there 
was  a  sort  of  farm,  belonging  to  a  resident  of  Havana, 
where  my  ship  was  being  loaded,  as  he  had  a  stock  of 
provisions;  and  it  was  there  the  survivors  found  relief. 
God  knows  what  sorrow  I  felt  at  this  loss;  for,  besides 
losing  a  number  of  servants  and  relatives,  and  a  large 

Fifth  Letter  321 

stock  of  breast  plates,  muskets,  cross-bows,  and  other 
arms,  I  sincerely  regretted  that  my  despatches  never 
reached  Your  Majesty,  which  was  of  the  greatest 
consequence  to  me  as  I  shall  hereafter  show. 

The  other  ship,  bound  for  Jamaica,  and  the  one  going 
to  Espanola  arrived  at  Trinidad  in  Cuba,  where  they 
found  the  licenciate  Alonzo  de  Zuazo  whom  I  Cortes 

had  left  as  chief  justice,  and  partly  in  the  Receives 
government  of  this  New  Spain  during  my  ab-  News  from 
sence;  and  they  also  found  in  that  port  a  Mexico 
vessel  which  those  licenciates  living  in  Espanola  were 
on  the  point  of  despatching  to  New  Spain  to  ascer- 
tain if  the  report  spread  of  my  death  which  was  spread 
there,  was  correct.1  When  the  people  of  the  ship 
learned  news  of  me,  they  changed  their  course,  because 
they  were  bringing  thirty-two  horses  and  some  saddles 
for  riding  in  the  Moorish  style,  besides  a  certain  quantity 
of  provisions  which  they  believed  they  could  sell  best 
wherever  I  was.  By  this  ship,  the  said  licenciate,  Alonzo 
de  Zuazo,  wrote  to  me  about  the  great  scandals  and  com- 
motions which  had  arisen  among  Your  Majesty's  officers 
in  New  Spain,  who  had  spread  the  report  of  my  death, 
and  two  of  whom  had  proclaimed  themselves  by  public 
crier  as  Governors,  obliging  the  people  to  swear  and 
recognise  them  as  such.  They  had  imprisoned  the  said 
licenciate,  Alonzo  de  Zuazo,  and  two  other  officers,  as 

i  The  report  of  Cortes 's  death  was  so  persistently  spread,  and 
with  such  details  of  the  time  and  place  of  his  decease,  that  his  own 
friends  and  servants  began  to  believe  it.  Diego  de  Ordaz  started 
with  four  brigantines  on  the  Xicalango  River,  which  empties  into 
the  gulf,  to  ascertain,  if  possible,  the  truth  of  the  rumours;  he  met 
several  Indian  traders,  who  assured  him  that  Cortes  had  been  dead  for 
seven  or  eight  moons,  having  been  captured  after  a  battle  in  which  he 
was  wounded  in  the  throat  by  the  Cacique  of  Cuzamilco,  a  town  on 
a  lake  seven  days  distant  from  Xicalango;  and  that  the  Cacique  had 
sacrificed  him  to  the  principal  deity  of  the  place,  called  Uchilobos. 
(Letter  of  Albornoz  to  Charles  V.,  December  26,  1526,  apud  Mufioz, 
torn,  lxxvii.,  fol.  clxix). 

VOL.   11 — 21 

322  Letters  of  Cortes 

well  as  Rodrigo  de  Paz  whom  I  had  left  in  custody  of  my 
house  and  property;  they  had  plundered  everything  and 
removed  the  alcaldes  and  judges  whom  I  had  appointed, 
putting  in  their  places  others  from  amongst  their  ad- 
herents. The  letter  contained  many  other  things  which 
are  too  long  to  repeat,  as  I  send  to  Your  Majesty  the 
same  original  letter  which  contains  them  all. 

Your  Majesty  may  easily  conceive  what  I  felt  on  the 
reception  of  this  news,  especially  when  I  learned  that 
my  services  had  been  rewarded  by  their  pillaging  my 
house, — an  unjustifiable  thing, — even  granting  that  the 
news  of  my  death  had  been  true.  Even  though  they 
allege,  in  order  to  justify  their  conduct,  that  I  owed 
seventy  odd  thousand  pesos  of  gold  to  Your  Majesty,  they 
know  full  well  that,  on  the  other  hand,  more  than  one 
hundred  and  fifty  thousand  such  were  due  to  me,  which 
I  have  spent,  and  not  ill  either,  in  Your  Majesty's  service. 
My  first  impulse  in  reflecting  on  the  means  to  correct  all 
this,  was  to  embark  at  once,  and  punish  so  great  an 
outrage;  for,  now-a-days,  everyone  who  holds  an  office 
abroad  imagines  that,  unless  he  swaggers  and  shows 
himself  independent,  he  is  no  gentleman.  I  hear  that 
a  similar  thing  has  just  happened  to  Pedro  Arias  with  a 
captain  of  his  whom  he  sent  to  Nicaragua  and  who  has 
recently  rebelled  against  his  authority  as  I  will  inform 
Your  Majesty  more  fully  hereafter.  On  the  other  hand, 
my  soul  was  afflicted  at  the  thought  of  leaving  that 
country  in  the  state  and  condition  I  would  have  to,  be- 
cause it  was  equivalent  to  allowing  it  to  go  to  ruin,  and 
I  am  sure  that  Your  Majesty  has  received  good  service 
and  that  it  will  turn  out  another  Culua;  for  I  hear  of  large 
and  rich  provinces  and  great  lords  who  live  in  them  in 
much  state  and  magnificence;  especially  of  one,  called 
Hueitapalan,  and,  in  another  dialect,  Xucutaco, l  of 
which  I  have  heard  for  six  years  past,  and  during  the 

»  Axucutaco. 

Fifth  Letter  323 

whole  of  my  journey  have  made  inquiries  about  it  and 
ascertained  that  it  lies  some  eight  or  ten  days'  march 
from  Trujillo,  which  would  be  between  fifty  and  sixty 
leagues.  There  are  such  wonderful  reports  about  it 
that  they  excite  my  admiration,  for,  even  if  two-thirds 
of  them  should  be  untrue,  it  would  nevertheless  exceed 
Mexico  in  wealth  and  equal  it  in  the  grandeur  of  its  towns, 
the  multitude  of  its  population,  and  its  political  organisa- 
tion. Being  thus  perplexed,  I  reflected  that  nothing  is 
well  done  save  what  is  guided  by  the  hand  of  the  Creator 
and  Promoter  of  all  things,  so  I  had  certain  masses  cele- 
brated and  made  processions,  offering  other  sacrifices  and 
beseeching  God  to  lead  me  in  the  direction  most  pleasing 
to  Him. 

For  several  days,  I  continued  this,  and  still  it  seemed 
to  me  I  should  set  aside  every  other  consideration  and 

go  at  once  to  remedy  those  evils.     So  I  left  n  <+     ^ 

,  1  .   .      ~        ,  uortes  J&m- 

some  thirty-five  horsemen  and  fifty  foot-sold-     barks  for 

iers  in  Trujillo  under  a  cousin  of  mine,  called        Mexico 

Hernando  de  Saavedra,  brother  of  that  Juan  de  Avalos 

who    was  drowned  coming  to  that  place,  who  was  to 

act  as  my  lieutenant;  and   I  gave  him  my  instructions 

as  to  how  he  was  to   govern.     Having   likewise    taken 

leave  of   the  native   lords  who   had    come    to   see  me, 

I  embarked,  with  all  my  household   servants,  on   board 

the  said  vessel,  and,  having  sent  orders  to  the   people 

in   Naco  to   go   overland  by  the   same   road   Francisco 

de   las    Casas    had    taken    (that   is    to    say   along   the 

south  coast,  and  come  out  at  the  place  where  Pedro  de 

Alvarado  is  settled  *)  as  now  the  road  was  well  known 

and  safe,  and  they  were  in  sufficient  numbers  to  go  where 

they  chose,  I,  likewise,  sent  instructions  to  the  town  of 

Natividad  as  to  what  they  were  to  do.     Being  already 

embarked,  and    about    to    set    sail    with    the    last    of 

anchors  weighed,  the  wind  suddenly  subsided  and  my 

1  Santiago  de  Guatemala  was  the  Governor's  residence. 

324  Letters  of  Cortes 

vessel  could  not  leave  port.  On  the  next  morning,  news 
came  that  among  the  people  whom  I  had  left  in  that  town 
there  were  grumblings  about  my  having  absented  myself, 
which  would  cause  certain  scandal,  and  thus,  the  weather 
not  being  propitious  for  sailing  I  again  landed,  made  an 
investigation,  and  punished  the  promoters  of  the  trouble 
so  that  quiet  was  restored.  I  again  embarked  and  set 
sail,  but,  after  making  about  two  leagues,  and  doubling 
a  large  point  in  which  the  port  terminates,  the  main 
mast  of  my  ship  was  broken,  so  again  I  was  forced  to 
return  to  port  and  repair  it.  Three  more  days  were 
spent  for  that  purpose,  when  I  again  left  with  favourable 
weather,  and,  after  sailing  two  nights  and  one  day,  a 
powerful  head  wind  assailed  us,  breaking  our  main  mast, 
so  that  I  was  again  obliged  to  return  to  the  port  with 
great  difficulty.  We  gave  thanks  to  God  for  our  safe 
arrival,  for  indeed  we  had  considered  ourselves  as  lost; 
and  I  and  all  the  people  were  so  exhausted  that  we  were 
obliged  to  take  some  rest;  so  while  the  ship  was  being 
repaired  I  again  landed  with  all  the  people  to  await  the 
change  in  the  weather. 

Having  seen  that  I  had  thrice  gone  to  sea  with  good 
weather  and  been  obliged  to  return,  it  seemed  that  it 
was  not  God's  will  that  I  should  leave  that  country  in 
its  present  state.  I  was  the  more  confirmed  in  this  as 
some  of  the  Indians  whom  I  had  left  peaceably  disposed 
were  in  some  commotion,  so  again  I  recommended  myself 
to  God  and  ordered  new  processions  and  had  more  masses 
celebrated,  and,  having  reflected,  I  decided  to  send  that 
vessel  in  which  I  had  intended  to  sail  for  New  Spain, 
with  my  cousin  Francisco  de  las  Casas  on  board,  pro- 
vided with  my  power  of  attorney,  and  my  letters  to  the 
municipalities  and  Your  Majesty's  officers,  reproving 
their  conduct;  also  to  send  some  of  the  principal  Indians 
who  were  with  me,  that  they  might  convince  their  coun- 
trymen that  I  was  not  dead  as  had  been  reported  and 

Fifth  Letter  325 

thus  tranquillise  them.  I  arranged  everything  thus, 
although,  had  I  known  of  the  loss  of  the  ship  I  had  first 
sent  and  my  despatches  respecting  the  ships  in  the  South 
Sea,  which  I  had  sent  in  her,  I  would  have  provided  more 
exact  instructions  than  I  did. 

After  having  despatched  this  ship  to  New  Spain,  and 
while  still  ill,  owing  to  my  sufferings  at  sea,  from  which 
I  had  not  yet  recovered,  I  was  unable  to  go  inland ;  partly, 
also,  because  I  was  waiting  for  the  return  of  the  ships 
from  the  Islands,  and  was  occupied  in  settling  various 
matters.  I  had  sent  my  lieutenants  here  with  thirty 
horsemen  and  as  many  foot  soldiers  to  explore  the  in- 
terior; and  they  marched  about  thirty-five  leagues 
through  a  very  beautiful  valley,  where  there  were  many 
and  populous  villages  with  an  abundance  of  all  kinds  of 
native  fruits,  and  well  adapted  for  raising  any  kind  of 
cattle,  as  well  as  for  the  cultivation  of  our  Spanish  agri- 
cultural products.  They  had  no  hostile  encounters  with 
the  natives,  but,  rather,  by  speaking  to  them  through 
our  interpreter  and  the  Indians  in  the  neighbourhood, 
who  were  already  our  friends  and  accompanied  the  ex- 
pedition, they  succeeded  in  establishing  peaceable  re- 
lations, so  that  more  than  twenty  chiefs  of  the  principal 
towns  visited  me  and  offered  themselves  willingly  as 
subjects  and  vassals  of  Your  Majesty,  promising  to  obey 
Your  Royal  commands,  which  indeed  they  have  since 
done  and  are  still  doing.  For  up  to  the  very  day  of  my 
departure,  I  had  some  of  them  always  with  me,  any  one 
of  whom  on  going  away  was  immediately  replaced  by 
another  who  came  and  brought  provisions  for  the  town, 
and  rendered  every  service  asked  of  him.  May  it  please 
God  to  confirm  them  in  their  good  will,  and  guide  them 
to  the  ends  Your  Majesty  desires;  and  I  have  the  fullest 
faith  that  it  will  be  so;  for,  from  so  good  a  beginning,  no 
bad  end  is  to  be  expected,  unless  it  be  through  the  fault 
of  those  who  are  placed  in  command  over  them. 

326  Letters  of  Cortes 

The  provinces  of  Papayeca  and  of  Champagua,  who, 
I  have  already  said,  were  the  first  to  offer  themselves  to 
Your  Majesty's  service  and  to  become  our  friends,  were 
those  amongst  whom  there  was  some  commotion  when 
I  had  first  embarked,  and  on  my  return  they  were  still 
rather  apprehensive,  so  I  sent  messengers  to  calm  them. 
Some  of  the  natives  of  Champagua  then  came  to  see 
me,  but  not  the  chiefs,  and,  as  they  refrained  from  com- 
ing and  sent  their  wives  and  sons  and  their  property  away 
from  their  villages,  it  was  apparent  they  did  not  trust 
us.  There  were  several  among  those  who  came  daily  to 
work  in  the  town  whom  I  earnestly  begged  to  return  to 
their  homes,  but  they  never  would,  sometimes  saying, 
" to-day,"  and  sometimes,  "to-morrow,"  so  I  managed 
to  lay  hands  on  the  chiefs,  Chiwhuytl,  Poto,  and  Mon- 
doreto,  whom  I  imprisoned.  I  gave  them  a  certain 
period  within  which  I  ordered  them  to  bring  their  people 
back  from  the  mountains  to  their  towns,  threatening  to 
punish  them  as  rebels  if  they  did  not;  thus  I  set  them 
free  and  the  natives  have  all  returned  to  their  homes 
quite  pacified  and  tranquil,  and  willing  to  serve  us. 

The  natives  of  Papayeca,  however,  would  never  con- 
sent to  appear,  especially  their  chiefs  who  kept  all  their 
Execution  people  with  them  in  the  mountains,  their  towns 
of  Mazatl  remaining  deserted ;  although  many  times  sum- 
moned they  persisted  in  their  disobedience,  so  I  sent  a 
company  of  horsemen  and  foot-soldiers  with  many  natives 
of  the  country  thither.  This  force  surprised  one  of  the  two 
chiefs  of  the  country,  named  Pizacura,  one  night,  and 
captured  him;  and,  having  been  asked  why  he  was  so 
wicked  and  disobedient,  he  said  that  he  would  have 
returned  to  his  village  long  before  had  his  colleague, 
Mazatl,  who  was  the  most  powerful  of  the  community 
not  refused ;  but  that,  if  they  would  let  him  go,  he  would 
discover  Mazatl's  movements  so  that  he  could  be  captured, 
for  if  he  were  hanged  the  people  would  immediately  be 

Fifth  Letter  327 

pacified  and  return  to  their  towns,  for  he,  himself  could 
collect  them  all  without  any  opposition.  So  they  set  him 
free,  which  was  the  cause  of  still  greater  misfortunes* 
as  afterwards  appeared;  for  certain  friendly  Indians, 
natives  of  that  country,  tracked  the  said  Mazatl  to  his 
hiding  place  and  guided  thither  some  Spaniards.  Having 
notified  him  what  his  companion  Pitzacura  said  about 
him,  he  was  ordered  to  bring  his  people  down  from  the 
mountains  into  their  villages  within  a  given  time,  but 
we  could  never  obtain  his  consent  to  this.  He  was  con- 
sequently tried,  sentenced  to  death,  and  executed.  This 
has  been  a  great  example  for  the  others,  for,  immediately 
afterwards,  other  towns  which  had  rebelled  resumed 
their  obedience,  so  that  there  is  not  a  single  town  left 
that  is  not  perfectly  peaceful,  with  its  inhabitants  and 
their  families  living  in  security,  except  Papayeca,  which 
has  never  been  willing  to  come  to  terms. 

After  the  release  of  Pitzacura,  proceedings  were  begun 
against  those  towns,  and  war  was  carried  on  against 
their  inhabitants,  in  the  course  of  which  more  than  one 
hundred  prisoners  were  taken  and  made  slaves,  amongst 
whom  was  Pitzacura  himself.  I  would  not  sentence 
him  to  death,  although  he  deserved  it,  as  was  shown  in 
the  legal  proceedings  against  him,  but  have  preferred 
to  bring  him  with  me  to  this  city,  together  with  two  others, 
chiefs  of  rebellious  towns,  so  that  they  might  see  for 
themselves  how  the  natives  were  treated  in  this  New  Spain, 
and  how  they  served,  all  of  which  they  could  make 
known  on  their  return.  Pitzacura  died  of  illness,  but 
the  other  two  are  well,  and  I  shall  send  them  back  when 
an  opportunity  offers.  The  imprisonment  of  Pitzacura, 
however,  and  of  another  youth  who  seemed  to  be  the 
rightful  heir,  together  with  the  punishment  inflicted  on 
those  hundred  and  odd  captives  who  were  made  slaves, 
sufficed  to  completely  pacify  the  province,  and,  when  I 
left  that  country,  all  the  towns  were  inhabited  and  at 

328  Letters  of  Cortes 

peace,  having  been  allotted  amongst  the  Spaniards  and 
serving  them  apparently  with  entire  good  will. 

At  this  time,  there  arrived  at  Trujillo  a  captain  with 
about  twenty  men  of  those  I  had  left  at  Naco,  under 
The  Colony  Gonzalo  de  Sandoval,  and  others  belonging  to 
of  Pedro  the  company  of  Francisco  Hernandez,  whom 
Arias  Pedro  Arias   de  Avila,   Your    Majesty's  gov- 

ernor in  those  parts  had  sent  to  the  province  of  Nica- 
ragua ;  I  learned  from  them  how  the  captain  of  the  said 
Francisco  Hernandez  had  arrived  at  Naco  with  about 
forty  men,  between  horses  and  foot,  expecting  to  reach 
the  port  on  the  bay  of  San  Andres  where  he  counted 
on  finding  the  bachelor,  Moreno,  whom  as  I  have  already 
told  Your  Majesty  had  been  sent  to  those  parts  by 
the  audiencia  residing  in  the  island  of  Espanola.  It 
appeared  that  the  said  bachelor  had  written  to  Fran- 
cisco Hernandez  inciting  him  to  rebel  against  his  lawful 
governor,  just  as  he  had  acted  with  the  people  under 
Gil  Gonzalez  and  Francisco  de  las.Casas.  That  captain 
therefore  had  come  for  the  purpose  of  concerting  with 
him  how  best  to  throw  off  obedience  to  their  governor, 
and  offer  allegiance  instead  to  the  audiencia  of  Espanola ; 
all  of  which  appeared  from  certain  letters  which  he  carried. 

I  immediately  sent  those  people  back  with  a  letter  to 
Francisco  Hernandez,  and  particularly  to  some  of  his 
captains,  whom  I  personally  knew,  reproving  them  all 
for  their  wicked  doings,  and  explaining  to  them  that  the 
bachelor  was  deceiving  them,  and  that  Your  Majesty 
would  be  displeased,  besides  other  things  which  it  seemed 
to  me  might  serve  to  win  them  back  from  the  false  course 
on  which  they  had  embarked.  One  reason  they  gave 
to  justify  their  conduct  was  that  they  were  so  distant 
from  Pedro  Arias  de  Avila  that  it  was  only  with  much 
difficulty  and  great  cost  that  they  could  be  provided 
with  the  common  necessaries  and  even  then  sometimes 
not  provided  at  all;  and  that  they  were  always  short  of 

Fifth  Letter  329 

commodities  and  provisions  from  Spain,  which  could 
easily  be  obtained  at  the  settlements  I  had  made  on  that 
coast.  The  said  bachelor  had  written  to  them,  saying 
that  all  the  settlers  in  the  country  acknowledged  the 
authority  of  the  audiencia,  and  that  he  would  soon  return 
with  people  and  provisions.  I  answered  them  that  I 
would  give  orders  for  the  settlements  to  furnish  them 
with  everything  they  needed  and  to  trade  amicably  with 
them,  as  both  were  equally  vassals  of  Your  Majesty  and 
employed  in  Your  Royal  service;  and  that  it  was  to  be 
well  understood  that  this  was  to  continue  as  long  as  they 
obeyed  their  governor,  as  was  their  duty,  but  not  other- 
wise. Since  they  told  me  that  what  they  most  required 
was  horseshoes  and  iron  tools  for  working  in  the  mines, 
I  sent  two  mules  loaded  with  such  things  to  take  back 
with  them,  and,  when  they  arrived  at  the  settlement  of 
Hernando  de  Sandoval,1  he  also  gave  them  two  more 
mules  loaded  with  horseshoes  which  I  had  there. 

After  they  left,  some  natives  from  the  Province  of 
Huilacho,  sixty-five  leagues  from  Trujillo,  who  had 
previously  sent  messengers  and  offered  themselves  as 
vassals  to  Your  Majesty,  came  to  see  me,  and  told  me 
that  twenty-five  horsemen  and  forty  foot  soldiers,  with 
many  Indians  of  other  provinces,  had  invaded  their 
country,  and  were  engaged  in  outraging  and  injuring 
them,  taking  away  their  wives  and  children,  and  robbing 
them  of  their  goods  and  chattels.  They  entreated  me 
to  assist  them  in  as  much  as,  when  they  had  become 
my  friends,  I  had  promised  to  defend  them  against  their 
enemies.  Afterwards,  my  cousin,  Hernando  de  San- 
doval, whom  I  had  left  as  my  lieutenant  in  those  parts, 
and  who  was  at  that  time  pacifying  the  provinces  of 
Papayeca,  sent  me  two  of  those  very  men  of  whom  the 
Indians  had  come  to  complain.  They  said  they  came  by 
order  of  their  captain  to  search  for  the  town  of  Trujillo, 

1  Should  be  Gonzalo  de  Sandoval. 

33°  Letters  of  Cortes 

having  been  told  by  the  Indians  that  it  was  near  and 
that  they  might  come  without  fear  as  the  entire 
country  was  at  peace.  I  learned  from  these  men  that 
their  companions  belonged  to  Francisco  Hernandez  and 
had  come,  under  command  of  Gabriel  de  Rojas  as  their 
captain,  in  search  of  that  port.  I  immediately  sent  those 
two  Spaniards,  together  with  the  natives  who  had  come 
to  complain,  and  also  one  of  my  alguacils,  to  Gabriel 
de  Rojas,  intimating  to  him  to  leave  that  province  at 
once,  after  restoring  to  the  natives  all  the  property  and 
women  and  everything  else  he  had  taken  from  them; 
besides  this  I  wrote  him  a  letter  saying  that  if  he  needed 
anything  to  let  me  know  as  I  would  willingly  supply  him 
to  the  best  of  my  ability.  He  complied  with  my  mandate 
and  instructions  at  once,  which  entirely  satisfied  the 
natives  of  the  said  province;  though  afterwards  they 
returned  again  to  complain  that  when  the  alguacils  whom 
I  had  sent  returned,  they  had  again  been  robbed.  I 
wrote  therefore  to  the  said  Francisco  Hernandez,  offering 
to  supply  him  and  his  men  with  everything  I  could  which 
they  required,  enjoining  him  to  remain  loyal  to  his  gov- 
ernor. I  do  not  know  what  has  occurred  since  then, 
though  I  learned  from  the  alguacil  I  sent  to  Gabriel  de 
Rojas,  and  those  who  went  with  him,  that,  when  they 
were  all  assembled  there,  a  letter  from  their  captain, 
Francisco  Hernandez,  had  arrived  addressed  to  Gabriel 
de  Rojas,  bidding  him  join  him  with  all  possible  haste 
as  great  dissensions  prevailed  among  his  people,  two  of 
his  captains,  named  Soto  and  Andres  Garabito,  having 
rebelled  on  the  plea  that  he  was  himself  about  to  renounce 
his  allegiance  to  Pedro  Arias.  Thus  matters  remained 
in  such  a  state  that  only  harmful  results  could  follow,  not 
only  to  the  Spaniards,  but  also  to  the  natives.  Whence 
Your  Majesty  may  consider  the  mischievous  consequences 
of  these  commotions,  and  how  necessary  it  is  that  the 
authors  and  promoters  of  them  should  be  punished.     I 

Fifth  Letter  331 

desired  to  go  at  once  to  Nicaragua,  believing  that  I  could 
devise  some  remedy  for  the  advantage  of  Your  Majesty's 
service;  and,  while  making  preparations,  and  having 
a  road  opened  through  some  mountains  over  which  I 
had  to  pass,  the  vessel  sent  by  me  to  New  Spain  returned 
to  the  port  of  Trujillo,  on  board  which  came  a  cousin  of 
mine  called  Fray  Diego  de  Altamirano,  a  Franciscan  friar. * 
From  what  he  told  me,  and  from  the  letters  he  brought, 
I  learned  of  the  many  disturbances,  scandals,  and  dis- 
sensions, which  had  broken  out  among  Your  Report  of 
Majesty's  officials,  whom  I  had  left  at  Mex-  Fray  Diego 
ico  in  my  place ;  and  which  still  continued,  de  Alta- 
making  it  necessary  that  I  should  immedi- 
ately repair  thither  to  correct  those  evils.  Hence  my 
journey  to  Nicaragua  and  the  coast  of  the  South  Sea 
was  necessarily  abandoned,  in  spite  of  my  firm  belief 
that  much  service  would  have  been  rendered  to  God 
and  to  Your  Majesty,  owing  to  the  many  extensive  and 
rich  provinces  which  lay  on  the  way;  in  some  of  which, 
although  they  are  at  peace,  the  service  of  Your  Majesty 
would  have  been  greatly  benefited  by  my  passage  through 
them;  especially  those  of  Utlatan  and  Guatemala,  where 
Pedro  de  Alvarado  has  always  resided.  In  conse- 
quence of  certain  ill-treatment,  they  had  rebelled  and 
had  never  afterwards  been  entirely  pacified,  but,  on  the 
contrary,  have  done,  and  continue  to  do,  much  harm  to 
the  Spaniards  who  live  there,  and  to  their  Indian  friends. 
The  country  is  so  rough  and  full  of  warlike  people,  so  well 
skilled  in  the  art  of  warfare,  both  offensive  and  defensive, 
that  they  have  invented  pits  and  other  engines  to  kill 
the  horses,  which  have  been  successful;  and,  although 
Pedro  de  Alvarado  has  unceasingly  waged  war  against 

1  This  friar  also  counselled  Cortes  to  assume  more  state  and 
dignity,  alleging  that  one  reason  some  of  his  enemies  affected  to  treat 
him  as  a  mere  soldier  of  fortune  was  because  he  had  never  insisted 
sufficiently  on  what  was  due  to  his  rank  as  Captain-General  and 
Governor;  from  thenceforward  he  heeded  this  advice. 

33  2  Letters  of  Cortes 

them,  with  more  than  two  hundred  horsemen  and  five 
hundred  Spanish  foot  soldiers,  besides  from  five  to  ten 
thousand  Indians,  he  has  so  far  been  unable  to  reduce 
them  to  Your  Majesty's  service,  but  on  the  contrary 
they  become  daily  stronger  through  reinforcements  of 
other  people.  I  believe  that,  had  I  been  able  to  go  that 
way,  I  might  with  God's  help,  through  kindness  and 
other  means,  have  won  them  over.  For  some  of  the 
provinces  which  were  driven  to  rebellion  by  the  ill-treat- 
ment they  received  during  my  absence  and  against 
which  had  marched  no  less  than  one  hundred  and  twenty 
horsemen  three  hundred  footmen,  and  considerable 
artillery,  besides  thousands  of  Indian  auxiliaries,  all 
under  command  of  the  inspector  who  governed  at  that 
time,  not  only  continued  in  their  rebellion,  but  rather 
succeeded,  and  killed  ten  or  twelve  Spaniards  and  many 
Indians;  but  when  I  arrived  it  sufficed  to  simply  send 
them  a  message  of  my  speedy  coming,  for  all  the  prin- 
cipal persons  of  that  province  to  come  and  explain  to  me 
the  cause  of  their  rising.  It  really  seemed  to  me  suffi- 
ciently just,  for  the  Spaniards  to  whom  they  had  been 
given  in  charge  had  burned  eight  of  their  principal  chiefs 
alive,  five  of  them  dying  on  the  spot,  and  the  remaining 
three,  a  few  days  after;  and,  although  they  had  demanded 
reparation  and  justice,  they  had  not  obtained  it;  so  I 
consoled  them  in  such  manner  that  they  went  away 
satisfied,  and  have  so  far  continued  to  live  peaceably, 
and  to  serve  as  they  had  done  before  I  went  away.  There- 
fore I  am  persuaded  that  the  other  towns  in  the  province 
of  Coatzacoalco,  which  are  in  the  same  plight,  on  hearing 
of  my  arrival,  and  without  even  sending  messengers  to 
them,  will  become  tranquil. 

In  another  part  of  my  narrative,  most  Catholic  Ma- 
The  Slave  jesty,  I  have  already  spoken  of  certain  small 
Trade  islands  off  the   port  of    Honduras,  which  are 

called  Los  Guanajos,  some  of  which  have  been  depop- 

Fifth  Letter  333 

ulated  by  the  expeditions  sent  there  from  the  Islands 
to  capture  its  natives  and  make  slaves  of  them. 
But  some  of  the  inhabitants  had  survived,  and  I  re- 
cently learned  in  the  islands  of  Cuba  and  Jamaica 
that  an  expedition  had  just  been  fitted  out  to  com- 
plete the  devastation,  by  carrying  away  the  remain- 
der; so  I  sent  a  caravel  to  stop  the  armada  amongst 
the  said  islands,  and  to  enjoin,  on  the  part  of  Your  Ma- 
jesty, that  no  sort  of  injury  should  be  done  to  the  natives, 
for  I  intended  to  pacify  them,  and  bring  them  to  Your 
Majesty's  service,  as  I  had  heard  from  some  who  were 
settled  on  the  mainland  of  their  peaceable  dispositions. 
This  caravel  encountered  at  one  of  the  islands,  called 
Huititla,  another  caravel,  of  which  Rodrigo  de  Merlo  was 
captain.  My  captain  found  means  to  bring  him  to  me 
with  all  the  natives  he  had  captured  in  that  island.  I 
immediately  sent  the  natives  back  to  their  homes,  and 
did  not  proceed  against  the  captain,  for  he  showed  me 
the  written  permission  he  had  from  the  governor  of 
Cuba,  with  a  proper  authorisation  from  the  judges  residing 
in  the  island  of  Espanola.  I,  therefore,  dismissed  him 
and  his  people  with  no  other  punishment  than  that  of 
liberating  the  captives  he  had  brought  from  the  said 
Islands;  but  the  captain  and  most  of  his  company  liked 
the  country  so  much,  they  remained  with  us  as  settlers 
in  those  towns. 

The  chiefs  of  those  Islands  recognised  the  kindness  they 
had  received  from  me,  and,  having  learned  from  their 
countrymen  who  had  settled  on  the  mainland,  what  good 
treatment  I  gave  them,  came  to  thank  me  for  the  benefits 
I  had  extended  to  them,  offering  themselves  as  subjects 
and  vassals  of  Your  Highness,  and  asking  me  to  show 
them  how  they  could  serve;  so  I  ordered  them,  in  Your 
Majesty's  name,  that,  for  the  present,  they  should  culti- 
vate the  fields  in  their  country,  because  in  truth  they  are 
good  for  nothing  else.     So  they  went  away  carrying  for 

334  Letters  of  Cortes 

each  of  these  islands  my  written  order,  notifying  any 
Spaniard  who  might  arrive  there  that  they  were  to  be 
in  no  manner  molested ;  and  they  begged  me  also  to  place 
a  Spaniard  in  each  of  the  Islands,  which  although  I  could 
not  then  agree  to,  on  account  of  the  nearness  of  my  de- 
parture, I  left  instructions  with  my  lieutenant,  Hernando 
de  Sandoval,  to  attend  to.  Immediately  afterwards, 
I  embarked  on  the  ship  which  had  brought  me  the  news 
of  the  events  in  this  country,  taking  in  her  and  in  two 
other  vessels  which  I  then  had  in  port,  some  of  the  people 
who  had  accompanied  me  on  that  expedition.  We  were 
about  twenty  in  number,  with  our  horses,  for  most  of 
the  people  preferred  to  remain  in  those  towns  as  settlers, 
and  the  others  were  already  waiting  for  me  on  the  road, 
thinking  I  was  to  return  by  land.  I  sent  them  a  message 
informing  them  of  my  departure  by  sea,  and  the  cause  of  it, 
and  ordered  them  to  proceed  on  their  march ;  they  have  not 
yet  arrived  but  I  have  positive  information  of  their  coming. 
Everything  being  thus  ordered  in  those  towns  which 
I  had  settled  in  Your  Majesty's  name  (though  to  my 
Cortes  at  great  regret  I  was  not  able  to  leave  them  as 
Havana  well  provided  as  I  desired)  I  put  to  sea  on 
the  twenty-fifth  of  April,  with  three  ships,  and  sailed 
with  such  fine  weather  that,  in  four  days,  I  arrived 
within  one  hundred  and  fifty  leagues  of  the  port 
of  Chalchicuela.1  There,  I  encountered  such  a  heavy 
storm  that  I  could  not  proceed,  and,  believing  it  would 
abate,  I  put  out  to  sea  for  one  day  and  a  night; 
but  such  was  the  tempest  that  the  ships  were  almost 
wrecked,  and  I  was  driven  to  take  refuge  in  the  Island 
of  Cuba,  where,  within  six  days,  I  entered  the  port 
of  Havana,  being  received  with  rejoicing  by  the  resi- 
dents, as  among  them  there  were  many  friends  of 
the  time  when  I  lived  in  that  island.  As  the  vessels 
had  suffered  much  damage  from  the  bad  weather,  it  was 

1  Indian  name  for  Vera  Cruz.     Also  spelled  Chalchuihcuecan. 

Fifth  Letter  335 

necessary  to  have  them  repaired,  which  cost  me  a  delay 
of  ten  days,  and  even  obliged  me  to  buy  another  vessel, 
which  was  in  port  being  careened,  so  that  I  could  leave 
mine  which  was  leaking  badly  there. 

The  day  after  my  arrival  at  Havana,  a  vessel  from  New 
Spain  entered  that  harbour,  and,  on  the  second  day 
there  came  another,  and,  on  the  third  day,  still  another. 
I  learned  from  them  that  all  the  country  was  at  peace, 
and  quite  tranquil  since  the  death  of  the  factor  and  the 
inspector,  though  they  told  me  there  had  been  some  rioting 
and  that  the  instigators  had  been  punished.  I  greatly 
rejoiced  at  this  news,  as  I  feared  my  sudden  return  from 
my  expedition  had  caused  some  new  uneasiness.  Having 
written,  though  briefly,  to  Your  Majesty  from  there, 
I  sailed  from  Havana  on  the  sixteenth  day  of  May,  bring- 
ing with  me  some  thirty  persons  who  had  come  secretly 
from  this  place ;  and  within  eight  days  I  reached  the  port 
of  Chalchicuela.  I  was  unable  to  enter  the  port,  owing 
to  a  change  of  weather,  but  remained  outside  some  two 
leagues  off.  At  nightfall,  having  manned  my  ship's 
boat,  as  well  as  a  brigantine  which  we  had  found  aban- 
doned at  sea,  I  landed  and  proceeded  on  foot  to  the  town 
of  Medellin,  about  four  leagues  distant  from  my  landing 
place;  and  without  having  been  seen  or  heard  by  anyone 
in  the  town  I  went  to  the  church  to  give  thanks  to  Our 
Lord.  My  arrival  having  become  known  almost  im- 
mediately, the  inhabitants  rejoiced  with  me,  and  I  with 
them;  and  that  very  night  I  despatched  messengers  to 
this  city,  as  well  as  to  the  towns  of  the  country,  announc- 
ing my  arrival  to  them,  and  making  certain  provisions 
which  seemed  to  me  important  and  to  the  advantage  of 
Your  Sacred  Majesty's  service,  and  the  good  of  the 
country.  I  remained  there  eleven  days,  to  obtain  some 
rest,  and  recover  from  the  fatigues  of  my  long  journey, 1 

1  Cortes  was  so  broken  by  the  fatigues  of  these  expeditions,  and 
so  reduced  by  fever  and  his  wounds,  that  he  was  scarcely  recognisable, 

336  Letters  of  Cortes 

during  which  time  I  was  visited  by  many  chiefs  and 
other  notable  natives  of  these  parts  who  showed  great 
joy  at  my  arrival.  From  there,  I  set  out  for  this  city, 
and  was  fifteen  days  on  the  road,  constantly  receiving  the 
visits  of  many  natives,  some  of  whom  had  come  eighty 
leagues  to  see  me ;  for  they  had  placed  their  post  messen- 
gers on  the  roads  so  as  to  be  informed  of  my  coming  which 
they  were  expecting.  Thus,  in  a  short  time,  numbers 
came  from  many  and  distant  parts  to  see  me,  shedding 
tears  with  me,  and  speaking  such  affectionate  and  kind 
words  while  they  recounted  all  the  troubles  they  had 
endured  during  my  absence,  in  consequence  of  the  bad 
treatment  shown  them,  that  it  broke  the  hearts  of  all 
who  listened  to  them.  And,  although  it  would  be  diffi- 
cult to  give  a  full  account  to  Your  Majesty  of  all  the 
things  they  related  to  me,  some  are  worthy  enough  to 
be  told;  nevertheless  I  reserve  them  to  be  told  by  word 
of  mouth. 

Upon  reaching  this  city,  both  Spaniards  and  natives 
congregated  here  and  received  me  with  as  much  joy  and 
Cortes  At-  gladness  as  though  I  were  their  own  father. 
rives  in  The  treasurer  and  accountant  of  Your  Majesty 
Mexico        came  out  to  receive  me  at  the  head  of  a  large 

and  many  could  hardly  persuade  themselves  that  the  emaciated  man 
they  saw  was  the  gallant  Malinche.  He  was  received  with  the  wildest 
rejoicing,  the  Indians  outdoing  the  Spaniards  in  their  enthusiasm; 
for,  despite  the  sufferings  he  had  brought  upon  them,  he  understood 
how  to  be  kind  to  them,  and,  compared  with  the  cold  brutality  and 
insatiable  rapacity  of  the  mean-spirited  officials  who  had  oppressed 
the  natives  during  his  absence,  Cortes's  treatment  of  them  seemed 
to  these  poor  people  that  of  a  paternal  benefactor.  Padre  Cavo  in 
recounting  the  events  of  this  period  says  that  "these  were  surely 
among  :the  happiest  days  of  Cortes's  life,  for  he  could  hardly  proceed 
on  his  march  on  account  of  the  constant  demonstrations  of  the 
crowds  of  Indians  who  came,  some  of  them  even  from  sixty  leagues 
distant,  to  see  him,  and  bring  him  presents,  so  that,  had  he  been 
their  own  king  Montezuma,  they  could  not  have  behaved  differently. 
Cortes  more  than  once  was  moved  to  tears  by  such  unexpected 
demonstration  of  joy  from  this  simple  people. " 

Fifth  Letter  337 

body  of  people,  on  foot  and  on  horseback,  all  in 
good  order  and  showing  the  same  signs  of  good  will 
as  all  the  others;  so  I  went  directly  to  the  church 
and  monastery  of  St.  Francis,  to  return  thanks  to  Our 
Lord,  Who  had  delivered  me  from  such  and  so  great 
perils  and  troubles,  bringing  me  again  to  repose  in  peace, 
and  to  find  a  country  which  had  been  torn  by  such  com- 
motions in  a  state  of  tranquillity  and  peace. 

I  remained  for  six  days  with  the  monks  to  give  an 
account  of  my  sins  to  God.  Two  days  before  I  left  the 
convent,  a  messenger  arrived  from  the  town  of  Medellin, 
announcing  the  arrival  at  that  port  of  certain  vessels, 
in  one  of  which  it  was  reported  there  came  by  order  of 
Your  Majesty  a  judge  of  inquiry.  Only  the  bare  fact 
was  known,  but  I  believed  that  Your  Majesty,  having 
heard  of  the  tumults  and  commotions  into  which  Your 
Highness's  officials  had  plunged  this  country  which  I  had 
left  in  their  charge,  and  not  being  sure  of  my  return  to  it, 
had  ordered  the  situation  to  be  provided  for.  God  knows 
how  much  I  rejoiced,  as  it  would  have  given  me  much 
pain  to  act  as  judge  in  this  cause,  for  I  had  myself  been 
so  much  injured  and  ill-treated,  and  my  property  so 
destroyed  by  these  tyrants,  that  any  judgment  of  mine 
might  have  been  suspected  of  proceeding  from  passion, 
though  indeed  no  sentence  of  mine  would  have  exceeded 
the  severity  their  faults  merited.  I  therefore  despatched 
a  messenger  in  all  haste  to  the  port  of  Medellin,  to 
ascertain  with  certainty,  sending  an  order  also  to  the 
Lieutenant  of  Justice  of  the  said  town  that  Your  Ma- 
jesty's judge  should  be  well  received  and  honoured  and 
lodged  in  a  house  which  I  owned  there,  and  that  he,  and 
all  who  accompanied  him,  should  receive  every  attention; 
although  as  it  afterwards  appeared  he  would  accept 

1  As    Cortes   states,    the    commissioner    showed    himself    rather 
reserved  towards  him,  refusing  his  presents  and  deprecating  his  hos- 
vol.  11. — 2  2 

338  Letters  of  Cortes 

The  day  after  I  despatched  that  message,  which  was 
the  feast  of  St.  John,  another  messenger  arrived  while 
I  was  witnessing  certain  bull  rights  and  other  games 
proper  for  the  festivity,  bringing  me  a  letter  from  the 
said  judge,  and  another  from  Your  Sacred  Majesty, 
from  which  I  learned  the  purpose  of  his  coming,  and 
that  Your  Catholic  Majesty  had  been  pleased  to  order  an 
investigation  into  my  administration  of  the  government 
of  this  country.  In  truth,  I  greatly  rejoiced,  not  only 
for  the  immense  favours  Your  Sacred  Majesty  has  done 
me  in  desiring  to  be  informed  of  my  services  and  faults, 
but  also  for  the  graciousness  with  which  Your  Highness 
has  been  pleased  to  let  me  know  through  your  letter 
Your  Royal  intentions  to  reward  me.  For  the  one  and 
the  other  I  kiss  the  Royal  Feet  of  Your  Catholic  Majesty 
a  hundred  thousand  times,  and  may  God,  our  Lord,  grant 
that,  after  receiving  such  favours,  I  may  still  be  able 
to  serve  somewhere,  and  that  Your  Catholic  Majesty  may 
recognise  the  sincerity  of  my  desire,  which  recognition 
alone  will  be  no  small  reward  for  me. 

In  the  letter  which  the  Judge  Luis  Ponce  wrote  me, 
I  was  informed  that  he  was  about  leaving  for  this  city, 
Arrival  of  an<^»  as  there  are  two  principal  roads  by  which 
Luis  Ponce  he  might  come  and  he  did  not  state  which 
de  Leon      0f  them  he    proposed  to   follow,  I   sent  serv- 

pitable  intentions.  He  over-ate  himself  at  the  splendid  banquet 
he  did  attend  at  Iztapalapan,  being  especially  intemperate  in  the 
matter  of  iced  drinks  of  various  sorts,  so  that  he  was  seized  with  chills, 
fever,  and  violent  vomiting  from  which  he  shortly  died.  Cortes's 
account  of  others  falling  ill,  and  a  sort  of  epidemic  introduced  by  the 
newcomers  prevailing,  is  not  confirmed  by  the  reports  of  others 
present.  Cavo  says  just  the  contrary,  that,  though  the  others  at  the 
banquet  ate  and  drank  freely  of  everything,  nobody  else  suffered  from 
it.  The  report  that  the  commissioner  had  been  poisoned  was  at  once 
started,  and  Albornoz,  who  left  for  Spain  just  at  that  time,  carried 
the  tale  thither;  so  that  not  even  the  sworn  statement  of  the  doctors 
who  attended  Ponce  de  Leon,  affirming  that  he  died  of  a  malignant 
fever  sufficed  to  entirely  kill  this  calumny. 

Fifth  Letter  339 

ants  of  my  household  upon  each  of  them  to  wait  up- 
on him  and  show  him  the  way.  The  said  Luis  Ponce 
travelled  in  such  haste,  however,  that,  although  we 
had  used  all  despatch,  my  people  met  him  only  twenty 
leagues  from  this  city;  and  although  he  received  my 
messengers  cordially  he  refused  to  accept  their  ser- 
vices. Although  I  was  sorry  at  this,  because,  owing 
to  his  hurried  travelling  he  required  assistance,  I  was 
on  the  other  hand  glad,  because  his  refusal  proved  him  to 
be  a  just  man,  who  desired  to  execute  his  functions  with 
all  straightforwardness,  and  inasmuch  as  he  had  come 
to  investigate  my  conduct,  he  was  unwilling  to  give  rise 
to  suspicion  by  accepting  my  hospitality.  He  arrived 
one  evening  two  leagues  from  this  city,  where  he  passed 
the  night ;  and  I  prepared  everything  to  receive  him  prop- 
erly on  the  following  day,  but  he  sent  me  word  not  to 
come  out  to  meet  him  in  the  morning,  as  he  intended 
to  dine  where  he  was,  asking  me  merely  to  send  him  a 
chaplain  to  say  mass  for  him,  which  I  did.  Suspecting 
that  this  was  only  an  excuse,  as  it  afterwards  turned 
out  to  be,  to  avoid  the  reception,  I  was  on  my  guard, 
but  he  left  so  early  that  although  I  made  all  haste,  he 
was  already  within  the  city  when  I  met  him;  so  we  rode 
together  to  the  monastery  of  St.  Francis,  where  we  as- 
sisted at  mass.  After  this,  I  said  that,  if  he  desired  to 
present  his  provisions  then,  it  could  be  done,  for  the 
entire  municipal  council  of  the  city  was  assembled  there, 
as  well  as  the  treasurer  and  accountant  of  Your  Majesty. 
He  declined  to  do  this,  saying  that  he  would  present  them 
the  next  day.  And,  so  it  was  done;  for,  the  next  day, 
we  assembled  in  the  principal  church  of  the  city  (the 
dean  and  chapter,  as  well  as  the  said  officials  and  myself 
being  present) ,  when  the  said  Luis  Ponce  presented  the 
royal  letters,  which  I,  and  all  those  who  assisted  at 
the  ceremony,  received  and  kissed,  and  placed  upon  our 
heads  as  provisions  of  our  King  and  rightful  Sovereign, 

34°  Letters  of  Cortes 

to  be  obeyed  and  complied  with  in  all  respects,  and  by 
everyone,  according  as  Your  Sacred  Majesty  was  pleased 
to  order.  The  municipal  officers  delivered  their  wands 
into  his  hands,  and  all  the  other  ceremonies  were  com- 
plied with,  as  Your  Majesty  will  see  by  the  official  acts 
drawn  by  the  notary  public  of  the  municipal  council,  in 
whose  presence  everything  was  executed.  The  public 
crier  announced  in  the  square  of  the  city  the  investiga- 
tions which  Luis  Ponce  had  come  to  institute,  but  during 
seventeen  days  no  one  presented  any  complaint  against 
me.  About  this  time,  the  said  judge  Luis  Ponce  fell  ill, 
as  did  also  those  who  had  come  with  him  in  his  armada, 
and,  the  disease  increasing,  it  was  God's  pleasure  that 
he  should  die  of  it,  as  did  also  thirty  others,  amongst 
whom  were  two  monks  of  the  order  of  St.  Dominic; 
moreover,  even  at  this  time  there  are  still  many  persons 
ill  and  in  danger  of  death ;  for  the  disease  they  brought 
with  them  in  that  armada  seemed  almost  to  be  a  plague, 
as  even  some  who  reside  here  took  the  contagion  and 
two  of  them  died,  while  others  are  still  in  a  convalescent 

Immediately  after  the  death  of  Luis  Ponce,  his 
funeral  was  celebrated  with  all  the  honour  due  to  a 
person  of  his  authority  sent  by  Your  Majesty.  I  was 
then  earnestly  requested  by  the  Municipal  Corporation  of 
this  city  as  well  as  by  the  Procurators  of  all  the  towns  who 
had  assembled  here,  to  take  charge  of  the  government,  in 
the  name  of  Your  Catholic  Majesty,  and  to  carry  on  the 
administration  of  justice  conceded  me  by  Your  Majesty's 
order  and  by  Your  Royal  Provisions,  giving  their  reasons 
therefor,  and  explaining  the  evils  which  would  follow 
in  case  I  would  not  accept  it,  as  Your  Majesty  may  see 
by  the  report  of  these  proceedings  which  will  accompany 
this  letter.  I  sought  to  excuse  myself  from  this,  as  will 
appear  by  the  said  copy,  but  other  requirements  have 
since  been  made  of  me  in  the  same  sense,  pointing  out 

Fifth  Letter  341 

greater  evils  as  likely  to  follow  should  I  not  accept,  and, 
though  I  have  defended  myself  until  now  and  have  not 
yielded,  I  can  see  that  there  do  in  reality  exist  some  evils. 
But  I  desired  Your  Majesty  should  be  convinced  of  my 
purity  and  fidelity  in  Your  Royal  service,  which  is  my 
chief  aim,  because  thinking  otherwise  of  me,  all  other 
good  things  in  this  world  are  nothing  to  me,  and  I  would 
rather  die.  I  have  therefore  put  aside  everything  for  this 
purpose  and  insist  with  all  my  influence  upon  a  certain 
licenciate,  called  Marcos  de  Aguilar,  whom  the  said  Luis 
Ponce  brought  as  h'eoj'e  is'joAvui  apj  as  his  successor, 
requesting  and  entreati  Suhim  to  continue  the  investiga- 
tion to  its  finish.  He  has  refused  to  do  this,  alleging 
insufficient  powers,  for  which  I  am  exceedingly  sorry, 
as  there  is  nothing  in  the  world  I  desire  so  much  as  to 
have  Your  Majesty  properly  informed  of  my  virtues  and 
sins  (and  this  not  without  reason)  for  I  believe,  as  an 
article  of  faith,  that  Your  Catholic  Majesty  will  grant  me 
ample  rewards,  not  taking  into  consideration  the  small- 
ness  of  my  past  services,  but  because  Your  Majesty  is 
bound  to  display  munificence  towards  one  who  has  served 
you  with  such  fidelity  as  I  have. 

Nothing  of  this  should  be  allowed  to  remain  obscure, 
but  all  the  good  and  bad  of  my  services  should  be  mani- 
festly and  clearly  published,  for  it  is  a  point  Accusations 
of  honour  with  me,  to  obtain  which  I  have  against 
gone   through   so    many   trials,    and  exposed  Cortes 

myself  to  so  many  dangers.  So  that  I  hope  that 
neither  God,  nor  Your  Majesty  out  of  respect  to  Him, 
will  allow  invidious  and  corrupt  tongues  to  deprive 
me  of  what  I  prize  most.  I  neither  desire  nor  ask 
of  Your  Majesty  any  other  reward  in  payment  of 
my  services  than  this.  God  grant  that  I  shall  not  live 
without  it.  I  feel,  Most  Catholic  Prince,  that,  from  the 
beginning  of  my  expeditions,  I  have  had  many  and 
powerful  rivals  and  enemies;  yet  their  wickedness  and 

342  Letters  of  Cortes 

malice  have  not  sufficed  to  eclipse  the  fame  of  my  fidelity 
and  services;  hence  in  despair  they  have  sought  to  ob- 
scure Your  Majesty's  vision,  and  lead  you  astray  from 
the  Holy  and  Catholic  intentions  which  I  have  always 
recognised  in  Your  Excellency,  to  acknowledge  and  re- 
ward my  services.  One  of  their  means  is  to  accuse  me 
before  Your  Majesty  of  treason,  saying  that  I  refused 
obedience  to  Your  Royal  commands;  that  I  held  this 
country  not  in  Your  Powerful  name,  but  under  my  own 
tyrannical  and  despotic  rule,  for  which  they  give  some 
depraved  and  diabolical  reasons  which  are  entirely  false 
and  spring  from  their  depraved  invention.1 

Did  they  but  look  sincerely  into  my  acts,  and  were 
they  just  judges,  they  would  be  forced  to  recognise  the 
reverse  of  what  they  declare,  for,  up  to  now,  it  has  not 
been,  nor  will  it  ever  be,  seen  whilst  I  live  that  any  letter 
or  command  of  Your  Majesty  has  been  refused  scrupulous 
obedience.  Now  the  iniquity  and  malice  of  those  who 
have  made  these  accusations  will  be  more  clearly  and 
entirely  proved  and  made  manifest,  because,  had  what 
they  say  been  true,  I  would  certainly  not  have  gone  six 
hundred  leagues  from  this  city,  through  an  uninhabited 
country,  and  by  dangerous  roads,  leaving  the  govern- 
ment to  Your  Majesty's  officials  whom  I  had  every 
reason  to  believe  were  most  zealous  in  the  Royal  service 
though  indeed  their  actions  did  not  correspond  to  the 
confidence  I  placed  in  them.  Their  other  argument  is 
that  I  held  the  greater  part  of  the  natives  here  as  my 
slaves,  treating  them  as  such  and  profiting  by  their 
services  and  work,  by  which  means  I  have  amassed  a  large 
sum  of  gold  and  silver  treasure,  and  that  I  have  used  the 
revenues  of  Your  Catholic  Majesty,  without  necessity, 
to  the  sum  of  sixty  odd  thousand  pesos  of  gold ;  also  that 
I  have  not  sent  the  full  amount  of  the  Royal  revenues 
to  Your  Excellency,  retaining  them  under  various  pre- 

1  See  appendix  to  this  Letter. 

Fifth  Letter  343 

texts  for  purposes  which  I  have  not  succeeded  in  accom- 
plishing. I  can  easily  believe  that,  perhaps,  they  partly 
believed  this,  as  such  rumours  are  current,  but  they  are 
contrary  to  the  facts,  and  I  am  fully  confident  that  the 
first  use  of  the  touchstone  will  suffice  to  discover  the 
counterfeit.  As  to  what  they  say  about  my  possessing 
the  large  portion  of  the  land,  I  admit  this  to  be  true,  and 
I  have  likewise  had  for  my  share  a  good  sum  and  quan- 
tity of  gold;  but  I  declare  it  has  not  been  sufficient  to 
raise  me  above  poverty,  and  free  me  from  debt,  for  I 
owe  more  than  five  hundred  thousand  pesos  in  gold,  to 
pay  which  I  do  not  possess  a  single  peso;  because,  if  my 
share  has  been  large,  the  expenditures  have  been  greater, 
for  I  have  consumed  very  large  sums,  not  in  buying  lands, 
nor  in  founding  entails,  nor  acquiring  any  sort  of  property 
for  myself  and  heirs,  but  in  extending  the  dominion  and 
patrimony  of  Your  Highness  in  these  parts,  and  in  gaining 
and  conquering  many  kingdoms  and  lordships  for  Your 
Excellency,  and  exposing  myself  to  risks  and  dangers. 

These  malicious  men  will  never  be  able  to  conceal,  or 
defame  with  their  viperous  tongues,  these  services,  because, 
by   examining    my    books,  it    will    be    found  Cortes 

that  I  have  spent  in  these  conquests  more  Renders 
than  three  hundred  thousand  pesos  in  gold  Account 
belonging  to  my  own  fortune  and  household;  hav- 
ing finished  with  that,  I  have  spent  sixty  thousand 
pesos  in  gold,  belonging  to  Your  Majesty,  which  were 
not  used  for  me,  for  I  never  touched  them,  but 
they  were  paid  out  on  my  vouchers  for  the  cost  and 
expenses  of  this  conquest.  Whether  they  have  been  pro- 
fitably spent  or  not  may  be  seen  by  the  patent  results 
which  are  manifest  to  all.  Respecting  what  they  say 
of  my  not  sending  the  revenues  to  Your  Majesty,  this 
is  also  manifestly  contrary  to  the  truth,  because,  in  the 
short  time  which  has  elapsed  since  I  came  here,  more 
treasure  has  been  sent  to  Your  Majesty  than  from  all  the 

344  Letters  of  Cortes 

Islands  and  mainland  put  together,  which  we  discovered 
and  peopled  thirty  odd  years  ago  at  great  expense  and 
outlay,  made  by  the  Catholic  Kings,  your  grandparents, 
which  was  not  the  case  in  this  country.  Not  only  have 
I  sent  to  Your  Majesty  all  belonging  to  Your  Royal 
dues,  but  I  have  also  sent  what  belonged  to  me,  and  those 
who  attended  me,  taking  no  account  of  what  we  have 
here  spent  in  Your  Royal  service.  When  I  sent  the 
first  remission  to  Your  Majesty,  with  Alonzo  Hernandez 
Puertocarrero,  and  Francisco  de  Montejo,  we  not  only 
sent  the  fifth  of  all  that  had  been  acquired  which  belonged 
to  Your  Majesty,  but  the  entire  amount  of  what  had 
been  obtained ;  for  it  seemed  right  of  me  to  do  so,  being, 
as  these  things  were,  the  first  fruits. 

Afterwards,  the  fifth  of  all  the  gold  obtained  in  this 
city  during  the  lifetime  of  its  sovereign,  Montezuma, 
was  sent  to  Your  Majesty;  I  mean  of  that  part  which 
was  smelted,  and  which  amounted  to  thirty  odd  thou- 
sand castellanos;  and,  although  the  jewellery  ought  also 
to  have  been  distributed,  giving  the  people  their  shares, 
both  they  and  I  were  glad  to  send  all  of  it  to  Your 
Majesty,  which  amounted  to  more  than  five  hundred 
thousand  pesos  in  gold.  The  loss  of  all  this  when  it  was 
taken  from  us  on  our  expulsion  from  this  city  during 
the  rebellion,  caused  by  the  coming  of  Narvaez  to  this 
country,  although  deserved  for  my  sins,  was  not  caused 
by  my  negligence. 

When  the  city  was  reconquered  and  reduced  to  the 
royal  service  of  Your  Highness  the  same  course  was 
followed;  of  the  gold  that  was  smelted,  one-fifth  was 
assigned  to  Your  Majesty;  and  I  also  obtained  that  all 
of  jewels  and  other  valuable  objects  belonging  to  my 
men  should  be  sent  to  Your  Highness,  and  these  were 
certainly  not  less  valuable  and  precious  than  the  first 
we  had  secured.  I  despatched  them  together  with 
thirty  thousand  pesos  of  gold,  in  bars,  in  charge  of  Julian 

Fifth  Letter  345 

Alderete,  Your  Majesty's  treasurer  in  these  parts,  but 
they  were  captured  by  the  French. *  Neither  was  this 
my  fault,  but  rather  the  fault  of  those  who  did  not  pro- 
vide a  sufficient  armada  in  time  to  go  to  the  Azores  for 
the  protection  of  such  an  important  treasure.  As  I  was 
starting  on  my  later  expedition  to  the  Gulf  of  Hibueras, 
I,  likewise,  sent  to  Your  Excellency  sixty  thousand  pesos 
of  gold,  by  Diego  de  Ocampo  and  Francisco  de  Montejo; 
and,  if  a  greater  amount  was  not  sent,  it  was  owing  to 
the  orders  issued  by  Your  Majesty's  Council  of  the  Indies, 
respecting  the  gold  to  be  sent  from  these  parts  to  Spain; 
for,  indeed,  we  somewhat  exceeded  ourselves  and  con- 
travened the  orders  in  sending  such  an  amount  at  one 
time.  We  ventured  to  do  this,  however,  on  account  of  the 
stress  in  which  Your  Majesty  was  for  want  of  money,  and 
I,  likewise,  sent  at  the  same  time  to  Your  Highness,  with 
my  servant  Diego  de  Soto,  everything  I  possessed, 
there  not  being  one  peso  of  gold  left  me,  including  a  field 
piece  which  in  its  material  and  manufacture  had  cost  me 
more  than  thirty-five  thousand  pesos  in  gold  2 ;  likewise 
certain  jewels  of  gold  and  stones  which  belonged  to  me, 
and  which  I  sent,  not  so  much  on  account  of  their  value, 
although  this  was  not  insignificant  for  me,  but  because 
the  French  had  captured  the  first  consignment  I  had 
sent,  and  it  grieved  my  soul  that  Your  Sacred  Majesty 
should  not  have  seen  those  things.  Thus,  in  order  that 
a  sample  might  be  seen,  even  though  trifling  in  com- 
parison with  the  things  I  first  sent,  I  sent  all  I  possessed 
of  the  kind.  Hence,  I  cannot  understand  what  reason 
there  could  be  for  keeping  back  anything  belonging  to 

1  See  Note  to  Fourth  Letter,  p.  159. 

2  Already  in  the  Fourth  Letter,  Cortes  explained  to  the  Em- 
peror the  exact  cost  of  this  unique  piece  of  artillery;  that  he  here 
repeats  himself  may  be  due  to  reasonable  fear  that  his  former  letter 
never  reached  its  destination;  for  many  of  those  he  wrote  were  lost. 
He  has  no  delicacy  about  insisting  upon  the  value  of  his  gift  to  the 

346  Letters  of  Cortes 

Your  Highness,  when  I  have  desired  with  pure  zeal  only 
to  serve  Your  Catholic  Majesty  with  all  I  possess.  I  am, 
likewise,  told  by  the  officials,  that,  during  my  absence, 
certain  quantities  of  gold  have  been  remitted,  so  that, 
in  truth,  the  remittances  have  never  ceased  being  sent 
every  time  an  opportunity  offered. 

It  has,  likewise,  been  stated,  most  Powerful  Lord,  that 
Your  Majesty  has  been  informed  that  I  received,  from 
Cortes  Pro-  t^ie  Province  allotted  to  me,  profits  amount- 
poses  to  ing  to  an  income  of  two  hundred  millions. 
Return  to  As  my  desire  neither  is,  nor  has  been,  other 
pain  than     that    Your     Catholic    Majesty    should 

know  beyond  all  doubt  my  zeal  for  Your  service,  and 
should  be  entirely  satisfied  that  I  have  always  told,  and 
will  tell  the  truth,  I  cannot  manifest  it  better  than  to 
place  this  much  revenue  at  Your  Majesty's  disposition, 
and  there  could  be  no  better  opportunity  than  the  present 
to  dispel  any  suspicions,  which,  according  to  public 
rumour,  Your  Majesty  has  concerning  me;  hence  I  be- 
seech Your  Majesty  to  accept  for  your  service  all  that 
I  possess  here  and  to  do  me  the  favour  of  granting  me 
instead  a  donation  of  twenty  millions  in  Spain.  In  this 
way,  Your  Majesty  will  keep  the  remaining  one  hundred 
and  eighty  millions,  and  I  shall  live  contentedly  at  Your 
Majesty's  Court,  where  no  one,  I  protest,  will  exceed 
me  in  fidelity,  nor  dare  to  doubt  my  services  to  the 
Crown.  I  shall,  also,  be  better  able  to  serve  Your 
Majesty  there,  for,  being  an  eye  witness,  I  can  inform 
Your  Highness  as  to  what  will  most  advance  Your 
Royal  service,  preventing  any  false  accounts  from  deceiv- 
ing Your  Highness.  I  assure  Your  Sacred  Majesty  that 
my  service  there  will  not  be  of  less  importance,  for  my 
advice  may  help  to  preserve  this  land,  and  advance  the 
conversion  of  the  natives  to  our  Catholic  Faith,  and  in- 
crease Your  Majesty's  revenues  in  these  parts,  rather 
than  see  them  diminished  as  has  happened  in  the  Islands 

Fifth  Letter  347 

and  on  the  mainland  for  want  of  good  government,  when 
the  Catholic  Kings,  grandparents  of  Your  Majesty,  not 
being  properly  counselled,  but  advised  by  interested 
people  who  misrepresented  the  true  conditions,  as  indeed 
all  those  have  done  who  have  sent  reports  from  those 
countries.  For  two  reasons  I  do  desire  of  Your  Sacred 
Majesty  so  great  a  favour  as  to  allow  me  to  come  and 
serve  in  Your  Royal  presence,  the  first  and  principal  one 
being  to  satisfy  Your  Majesty  and  the  rest  of  the  world 
of  my  loyalty  and  fidelity  in  Your  Royal  service,  because 
I  esteem  this  more  than  anything  else  in  the  world;  for, 
if  I  have  exposed  myself  to  so  many  fatigues  and  dangers, 
and  have  suffered  such  hardships,  it  was  to  gain  the 
renown  of  being  a  servant  of  Your  Majesty,  and  of  Your 
Royal  and  Imperial  Crown,  and  not  from  covetousness 
of  treasures.  Of  treasures,  indeed,  I  have  had  a  sufficient 
quantity  if  they  could  satisfy  me, — I  mean  for  such  a 
modest  esquire  as  myself, — nor  would  I  have  spent  them 
lavishly  to  advance  that  which  I  hold  to  be  my  first  and 
most  important  object.  If  I  have  not  obtained  that 
favour,  which  I  so  much  covet,  doubtless  my  sins  have 
been  the  cause,  and  I  believe  that  nothing  is  capable 
of  satisfying  me  if  this  immense  favour  which  I  implore, 
is  not  granted  me  by  Your  Majesty. 

Lest  Your  Majesty  should  imagine  that  I  ask  too  much, 
though  the  sum  is  hardly  sufficient  for  my  decent  main- 
tenance at  Court,  I  will  be  contented  with  ten  millions 
of  yearly  revenue.1  This  would  enable  me  to  appear 
worthily  after  having  held  the  charge  of  Governor  in  the 
Royal  name  of  Your  Majesty  in  these  parts,  and  having 
extended  the  Royal  patrimony  and  dominion  of  Your 
Majesty  by  bringing  under  Your  Princely  yoke  so  many 
provinces,  peopled  by  so  many  and  such  great  cities; 
and  by  destroying  idolatries  and  offences  against  our 

1  Meaning  presumably  the  yearly  revenue  from  a  capital  of  ten  mil- 
lions, though  it  is  expressed  as  here  translated. 

348  Letters  of  Cortes 

Creator,  and  converting  many  natives  to  His  knowledge 
by  planting  the  true  Catholic  Faith  in  this  land.  If 
they  are  not  prevented  by  those  who  look  upon  these 
things  with  evil  eyes,  and  whose  zeal  is  directed  to  other 
ends,  a  new  Church  will  very  certainly  be  raised  shortly 
in  these  parts,  where  God,  our  Lord,  will  be  better  served 
and  honoured  than  anywhere  else  in  the  world.  I  repeat, 
that,  if  Your  Majesty  will  grant  me  ten  millions  of  revenue 
in  your  realms,  and  allow  me  to  serve  you  in  Spain,  I  shall 
consider  it  a  great  favour,  even  leaving  behind  all  I 
possess  here ;  for  thus  my  desire  to  serve  Your  Majesty 
in  Your  Royal  presence  will  be  satisfied,  and  Your  High 
ness  will  likewise  be  convinced  of  my  loyalty  and  zeal. 

The  other  reason  for  wishing  to  appear  before  Your 
Majesty  is  that  I  may  give  information  respecting  the 
state  of  this  country,  and  even  of  the  Islands,  which  will 
advance  the  service  of  God,  our  Lord,  and  of  Your 
Majesty;  for,  on  the  spot,  my  words,  would  be  believed, 
which  is  not  the  case  respecting  what  I  write  from  here, 
as  what  I  say  has  been  attributed  to  my  interested 
motives  and  not  to  my  zeal  as  a  vassal  of  Your  Sacred 

My  desire  to  kiss  the  Royal  feet  of  Your  Sacred 
Majesty,  and  to  be  promoted  to  serve  in  Your  Royal  Pres- 
ence is  beyond  all  expression.  If  Your  Highness  be  not 
pleased  to  allow  this,  or  deems  it  inopportune  to  grant  me 
the  favour  I  beg,  by  allowing  me  a  set  yearly  income  to 
support  me  at  Court,  I  pray  Your  Highness  to  allow  me 
to  retain  in  this  country  what  I  now  possess  here,  or  what 
my  agents  will  beseech  Your  Majesty,  in  my  name,  grant- 
ing it  as  a  perpetual  pension  for  myself  and  my  heirs, 
so  that  I  may  not  be  obliged  to  return  to  Spain,  asking 
people  for  God's  sake  to  give  me  food.  I  shall  consider 
it  a  great  boon  if  Your  Majesty  will  grant  what  I  so 
fervently  desire,  for  I  trust  in  my  service  and  in  the 
Catholic  conscience  of  Your  Sacred  Majesty  and  that, 

Fifth  Letter  349 

beholding  the  purity  of  my  intentions,  Your  Highness 
will  not  allow  me  to  live  poor. 

The  arrival  of  this  judge  of  inquiry  seemed  to  me  to 
furnish  a  good  occasion  and  sufficient  cause  for  the  accom- 
plishment of  my  said  wish;  and  I  even  began  to  put  it 
into  execution,  but  was  hindered  by  two  things;  one  of 
which  was  that  I  was  without  money,  for  my  house  in 
this  city  had  been  pillaged  and  robbed  of  all  its  contents, 
as  Your  Majesty  is  already  apprised;  and  the  other  was 
the  fear  that,  during  my  absence  in  this  country,  the 
natives  might  rebel,  and  dissensions  might  break  out 
amongst  the  Spaniards;  for  the  experience  of  the  past 
may  well  serve  to  forecast  the  future. 

While  I,  Most  Catholic  Lord,  was  engaged  in  preparing 
this  despatch  for  Your  Sacred  Majesty,  a  messenger 
arrived  from  the  South  Sea,  bringing  me  a  Expedition 
letter  that  a  ship  had  arrived  on  that  coast,  of  Loaysa 
near  a  place  called  Tecoantepeque,  which,  as  it  ap- 
peared from  another  letter  addressed  to  me  by  the 
captain  of  the  said  ship,  and  which  I  send  to  Your 
Majesty,  belongs  to  the  armada  sent  under  command  of 
the  Captain  Loaysa  to  the  Malucco  Islands.1  Your 
Majesty  will  learn  from  this  captain's  letter  the  inci- 
dents of  his  voyage,  so  I  will  not  repeat  them  to  Your 
Highness  but  limit  myself  to  explaining  what  I  did. 
I    immediately  sent  a  competent   person    to  the   place 

1  This  fleet  of  some  six  vessels  under  command  of  Garcia  Jofre  de 
Loaysa  sailed  in  August,  1525,  for  the  Molucca  Islands,  a  conven- 
tion having  been  previously  established  with  Portugal  to  avoid  a 
conflict  of  claims.  It  encountered  many  misfortunes,  and  its  com- 
mander, the  navigator  Sebastian  del  Cano,  and  other  officers,  died 
during  the  voyage.  The  vessel,  of  which  Cortes  writes,  reached  the 
Mexican  coast  under  command  of  Fortunio  de  Alango,  her  captain, 
Santiago  de  Guevara,  having  succumbed  to  the  privations  of  the 
voyage  when  in  sight  of  port.  Only  one  of  Loaysa's  ships  reached  its 
proposed  destination,  and  founded  a  small  struggling  settlement 
on  the  Isla  de  los  Reyes,  which  was  later  abandoned  when  the  Spanish 
crown  lost  interest  in  the  Spice  Islands'  ventures  (Bancroft,  Hist. 
Mex.,  vol.  ii.,  cap.  xiii). 


Letters  of  Cortes 

where  the  ship  had  arrived,  to  arrange  for  the  said 
captain  to  return  to  Spain  immediately  if  he  so  desired, 
providing  him  with  everything  necessary  for  his  voyage; 
and  to  learn  from  him  the  particulars  of  his  voyage  so  that 
I  might  make  a  full  report  of  everything  to  Your  Highness 
as  soon  as  possible.  Lest  the  ship  might  need  repairs 
I  also  sent  thither  a  pilot  to  bring  her  to  the  port  of 
Zacatula,  where  I  have  three  ships  ready  to  start  on  a 
voyage  of  discovery  in  those  parts  and  coasts,  and  I 
gave  orders  that  she  should  be  repaired  and  refitted  for 
Your  Majesty's  service,  and  for  the  needs  of  her  voyage. 
As  soon  as  I  receive  information  from  the  ship,  I  shall 
immediately  forward  it,  so  that  Your  Majesty,  being 
fully  informed,  may  give  the  orders  most  expedient 
for  Your  Royal  service. 

My  ships  in  the  South  Sea,  as  I  have  told  Your 
Majesty,  are  prepared  to  start  on  their  voyage;  for,  as 
soon  as  I  arrived  in  this  capital,  I  began  to  hasten  their 
departure ;  and  they  would  already  have  sailed  but  that 
they  were  waiting  for  certain  arms,  artillery,  and  am- 
munition, which  had  come  from  Spain,  for  their  service 
and  that  of  Your  Majesty.  I  hope,  in  Our  Lord,  that  Your 
Majesty's  good  fortune  will  enable  me  to  render  good 
services  by  this  voyage ;  for,  even  if  a  strait  should  not  be 
discovered,  I  hope  to  find  some  route  to  the  Spice  Islands, 
so  that  Your  Majesty  may  have  yearly  news  of  events 
there.  Should  Your  Majesty  be  pleased  to  grant  me 
the  favours  I  have  asked  in  a  certain  capitulation  re- 
specting that  discovery,  I  offer  myself  to  conquer  all 
the  Spiceries,  and  any  other  islands  there  may  be  be- 
tween Malucco,  Malacca,  and  China,  and  to  arrange 
matters  so  that,  instead  of  obtaining  spices  and  drugs 
by  trading  with  the  king  of  Portugal,  who  now  owns 
them,  Your  Majesty  may  obtain  them  as  your  own 
property,  once  the  natives  of  those  islands  have  ac- 
knowledged Your  Majesty  as  their    king  and  rightful 

Fifth  Letter  351 

sovereign.  For,  I  pledge  myself,  if  the  said  grants  be 
made  to  me,  to  send  such  an  armada  thither,  or  to  go 
myself  personally,  as  will  subdue  those  islands,  settling 
Spaniards  there  whom  I  will  provide  with  forts  and 
the  necessary  artillery  and  war  stores  to  defend  them- 
selves against  all  the  princes  of  those  parts  or  any  other. 
Should  Your  Majesty  be  pleased  that  I  undertake  this 
business,  granting  me  what  I  asked,  I  believe  it  will  be 
for  the  good  of  Your  service;  and  I  propose  that,  should 
it  not  turn  out  as  I  have  stated,  Your  Majesty  shall 
order  me  to  be  punished  as  one  who  has  reported  falsely 
to  his  Sovereign. 

Since  my  return,  I  have,  likewise,  ordered  people  to 
go  overland  to  settle  on  the  River  Tabasco,  which  is  also 
called  Grijalba,  and  to  conquer  many  provinces  in  that 
neighbourhood,  whereby  God,  our  Lord,  and  Your 
Majesty,  will  be  well  served,  and  the  ships  navigating  in 
those  parts  will  derive  much  benefit.  The  port  is  a  good 
one,  and,  if  populated  by  Spaniards,  and  if  the  coast 
tribes  be  pacified,  the  vessels  coming  and  going  will  be 
safe,  whereas  heretofore  the  natives  there  have  been 
savage,  and  have  killed  the  Spaniards  who  landed  there. 

As  Your  Majesty  has  already  been  informed,  I  have 
also  sent  three  companies  of  men  to  the  province  of  the 
Zapotecas1  to  invade  it  in  three  different  places,  so  as 
to  complete  its  reduction  in  the  shortest  possible  period; 
this  will  be  of  great  service,  not  only  because  of  the  mis- 
chief which  those  natives  work  on  the  other  peaceable 
ones  in  the  neighbourhood,  but  also  because  they  occupy 
the  richest  mining  districts  existing  in  New  Spain,  from 
which,  when  conquered  Your  Majesty  will  derive  great 

1  During  this  expedition  against  the  Zapoteca  and  Mixi  tribes, 
the  Spaniards  accumulated  about  one  hundred  thousand  pesos  of 
gold,  partly  by  rifling  the  graves  of  chiefs.  The  leaders  were  in- 
experienced, and  fell  to  quarrelling  amongst  themselves.  One  of 
their  ships  with  some  fifteen  men,  and  all  the  treasure,  foundered  in  a 
gale  off  Vera  Cruz. 

352  Letters  of  Cortes 

profit.  I  have,  likewise,  prepared  an  expedition  to  settle 
on  the  banks  of  the  River  Las  Palmas, l  which  is  on  the 
north  coast,  below  Panuco,  in  the  direction  of  Florida, 
for  I  have  been  informed  that  the  land  is  good  and  that 
there  is  a  seaport;  all  of  which  persuades  me  that  God, 
Our  Lord,  and  Your  Majesty  will  not  be  less  served  there 
than  in  other  parts. 

1  The  territory  of  Rio  de  las  Palmas  just  north  of  Panuco  had 
been  granted  to  Panfilo  de  Narvaez,  and  was  reputed  to  be  extra- 
ordinarily rich  in  gold  and  precious  stones.  Cortes's  proposed  expedi- 
tion was  withdrawn  to  avoid  encroaching  on  the  rights  of  Narvaez,  and 
a  free  hand  was  thus  left  to  Nufio  de  Guzman,  a  man  of  noble  birth 
from  Guadalajara,  who  had  been  for  some  years  at  Puerta  de  Plata 
in  San  Domingo,  until,  through  Diego  Velasquez's  influence,  he  was 
appointed  Governor  of  Panuco.  For  cruelty,  rapacity,  and  violence,  he 
was  among  all  the  Spaniards  in  Mexico,  either  before  or  after  him  facile 
princeps.  In  his  Governorship  of  Panuco,  he  had  already  violated 
all  the  conventions  with  the  natives,  and,  in  defiance  of  the  royal  ordi- 
nances, had  so  hunted  down  the  Indians,  branding  them  and  shipping 
as  slaves  to  the  Islands,  that  his  province  was  almost  depopulated. 
He  was  just  as  violent  in  his  treatment  of  the  Spaniards,  directing  his 
severities,  especially  towards  all  who  were  known  as  friends  of  Cortes. 

He  invaded  neighbouring  provinces,  and,  when  the  settlers  resisted, 
his  superior  force  enabled  him  either  to  drive  them  out,  seize  their 
lands,  or  to  capture  them,  and,  without  even  a  trial,  condemn  them 
to  torture  and  death.  He  nailed  one  Spaniard  to  a  tree  by  a  nail 
through  his  tongue  for  using  impertinent  language  to  him. 

Promoted  to  the  Governorship  of  Mexico,  the  field  for  carrying  on 
his  sinister  exploits  was  enlarged,  and  no  oppression,  extortion,  or 
outrage,  which  his  fiendish  ingenuity  could  devise,  or  his  avarice 
suggest,  was  omitted  to  subjugate  all  alike  to  his  will;  later  his  ex- 
pedition into  the  north-west  left  the  same  trail  of  robbery  and  murder 
behind.  He  was  finally  arrested  and  sent  to  Spain  for  trial,  where, 
in  1540,  Cortes  had  the  magnanimity  to  interest  himself  in  behalf  of 
his  old  enemy,  who  was  penniless,  friendless,  and  in  prison  at  Torrejon 
de  Velasco,  some  eight  leagues  distant  from  the  capital,  even  sending 
him  money  for  his  wants.  Guzman  died,  however,  before  his  trial 
was  finished.  Bustamente  moralises  on  the  strange  contradiction  in 
the  character  of  Cortes,  which  prompted  such  generosity  to  the  most 
inveterate  enemy  he  had  ever  had,  one  who  since  years  had  worked 
him  every  injury  in  his  power,  while  he  showed  himself  so  heartless 
in  his  treatment  of  the  brave  King  Quauhtemotzin,  whom  he  hanged 
in  the  dead  of  night,  in  the  wilds  of  Yucatan,  for  no  fault  whatever » 
after  having  robbed  and  tortured  him  in  Mexico. 

Fifth  Letter  353 

Between  the  northern  coast  and  the  Province  of 
Mechoacan,  there  is  a  certain  tribe  called  Chichimecas. 1 
They  are  a  very  barbarous  people,  and  not  so  Ex  .... 
intelligent  as  those  of  these  provinces.  I  have,  against  the 
likewise,  sent  sixty  horsemen,  two  hundred  Chichi- 
foot  soldiers,  and  many  native  allies,  against  mecas 
them,  to  discover  the  secrets  of  that  province  and  its 
people.  I  have  instructed  them  that,  should  they  find 
the  people  there  susceptible  of  civilisation  and  con- 
version to  Our  Faith,  as  these  others  have  been,  and 
showing  a  disposition  for  Your  Majesty's  service,  to  make 
some  settlement  in  the  country,  and  to  bring  them  peace- 
ably under  the  yoke  of  Your  Majesty.  But  that  if  they 
did  not  find  them  as  I  have  just  said,  but  rebellious  and 
disobedient,  to  make  war  on  them  and  reduce  them  to 
slavery;  for,  there  is  nothing  so  superfluous  in  this  coun- 
try as  those  who  refuse  to  acknowledge  and  serve  Your 
Majesty.  By  making  slaves  of  these  barbarians,  who 
are  almost  savages,  Your  Majesty  will  be  served,  and 
the  Spaniards  greatly  benefited,  as  they  will  dig  for  gold, 
and  perhaps  through  contact  with  us,  some  of  them  may 
save  their  souls. 

I  have  learned  that,  in  the  midst  of  these  Chichimecas, 
there  are  some  thickly  populated  parts  where  there  are 
large  towns  whose  people  live  in  the  same  manner  as  the 
Mexicans.  Some  of  these  towns  have  even  been  seen 
by  Spaniards,  and  I  am  confident  that  the  country  will 
be  settled,  for  I  am  assured  that  it  abounds  in  silver 

About  two  months  before  leaving  this  capital  for  the 

1  The  Chichimecas  were  the  most  ancient  of  Mexican  nations,  and 
were  savages  dwelling  in  caves,  living  by  the  chase,  and  having 
nothing  of  the  Aztec  civilisation,  and  yet,  according  to  Motolinia 
(Toribio  de  Benevente)  they  were  monogamists,  sun-worshippers, 
and  made  no  human  sacrifices,  their  offerings  being  snakes  and 

354  Letters  of  Cortes 

Gulf  of  Hibueras,  most  Powerful  Lord,  I  despatched  a 
captain  to  the  town  of  Coliman,  which  is  on  the  South  Sea, 
one  hundred  and  four  leagues  from  here,  ordering  him 
to  follow  that  coast,  for  a  hundred  and  fifty  or  two  hun- 
dred leagues,  for  the  sole  purpose  of  learning  all  about  it, 
and  of  discovering  if  there  were  any  ports.  He  executed 
my  orders,  penetrating  one  hundred  and  thirty  leagues 
inland,  and  bringing  me  an  account  of  many  ports  he  had 
found  on  the  coast.  This  was  of  no  small  advantage,  on 
account  of  the  general  dearth  of  them  up  to  the  present 
time;  he  had  visited  many  and  very  considerable  towns, 
and  several  numerous  and  warlike  tribes,  with  whom 
he  had  encounters,  and  many  of  whom  he  pacified;  his 
small  force  and  the  want  of  pasturage  for  his  horses 
prevented  his  going  further.  His  account  also  described 
a  very  large  river,  which  the  natives  told  him  was  ten 
days'  march  from  its  source,  and  about  which,  and  the 
people  inhabiting  its  banks,  they  told  me  many  strange 
things.  I  am  about  to  send  him  again  with  a  larger 
force  and  better  equipment,  so  that  he  may  explore  the 
secrets  of  that  river,  which,  judging  from  the  size  and 
importance  the  natives  attribute  to  it,  I  would  not  be 
surprised  if  it  turned  out  to  be  a  strait;  as  soon  as  he 
returns  I  shall  relate  to  Your  Majesty  what  I  have 

All  these  captains  are  on  the  point  of  starting  on  their 
expeditions :  may  God  be  pleased  to  guide  them  according 
to  His  Will.  For  my  own  part,  even  should  Your  Ma- 
jesty visit  Your  displeasure  on  me,  I  shall  not  cease  to 
devote  myself  to  Your  service,  holding  it  impossible  that 
Your  Majesty  should  fail,  for  any  length  of  time,  to 
recognise  my  services;  but,  even  if  this  should  happen, 
I  shall  remain  satisfied  with  having  done  my  duty,  and 
knowing  that  all  the  world  is  aware  of  the  loyalty  with 
which  I  have  performed  it,  nor  do  I  wish  for  any  other 
inheritance  for  my  children. 

Fifth  Letter  355 

Most  Invincible  Caesar  may  God,  Our  Lord,  preserve 
the  life,  and  augment  for  long  years  the  power  of  Your 
Sacred  Majesty  according  to  Your  desires.  From  this 
city  of  Temixtitan,  on  the  third  day  of  September,  1526. 

Hernando  Cortes. 




On  August  27,  1529,  Fray  Juan  de  Zumarraga,  bishop  of  Mexico, 
addressed  a  lengthy  report  to  Charles  V.,  recapitulating  the  events 
of  the  conquest,  and  exposing  the  actual  condition  of  the  country, 
notably  the  official  anarchy  prevailing  in  the  capital  during  the  ab- 
sence of  Cortes  in  Honduras.  The  bishop's  impartiality  in  all  that 
concerns  the  conduct  of  Cortes  and  that  of  his  enemies  gives  great 
value  to  his  testimony,  and  I  have  thought  well  to  translate  that  part 
of  his  letter  which  deals  particularly  with  the  state  of  things  in  Mexico 
up  to  the  time  of  Cortes's  visit  to  Spain.  Read  in  connection  with 
the  narrative  of  the  Fifth  Letter,  these  passages  will  be  seen  to  con- 
firm the  latter's  statements  in  his  various  letters  to  the  Emperor, 
many  of  which  they  also  complete  and  elucidate. 

I  know  of  no  English  translation  of  this  important  document,  but 
in  the  valuable  collection  of  Voyages,  Relations,  et  Memoir es  of  Ternaux- 
Compans  an  excellent  French  translation  of  the  entire  letter  may  be 


The  grace,  the  peace,  and  the  mercy  of  Our  Lord  Jesus  Christ  be  with 
your  Majesty,  and  may  Your  Majesty  read  attentively  this  letter,  which 
is  written  with  the  sincere  and  loyal  intention  of  serving  God  and  Your 
Majesty.  I  write  dispassionately,  and  to  make  myself  useful  to  the 
inhabitants  of  this  country,  both  Spaniards  and  natives,  and  for  the 
discharge  of  my  conscience  and  the  fulfilment  of  the  duties  of  my 
office,  which  I  have  accepted  as  a  cross  and  a  martyrdom.  I  shall 
state  the  truth,  even  should  it  cost  me  my  life,  which  is  said  to  be 
menaced  by  the  hatred  of  my  enemies.  He  who  shall  judge  us  all 
will  take  account  of  the  persecutions  I  suffer  for  His  cause. 

Immediately  upon  my  arrival  in  this  country,  and  after  consulting 
the  most  serious  religious  men,  as  well  as  the  conquerors  and  the  oldest 
inhabitants,  I  addressed  to  Your  Majesty  a  report  on  the  condition 
in  which  I  found  it.  But  now  that  I  have  acquired  more  experience 
and  have  been  able  to  inform  myself  by  conversing  with  the  natives, 
I  am  able  to  make  known  the  Spaniards'  manner  of  viewing  things 
and  all  that  has  happened  since  the  arrival  of  the  royal  Audiencia 
with  which  I  came,  and  it  is  in  God's  name  that  I  entreat  Your  Majesty 
to  graciously  correct  the  abuses. 


360  Letters  of  Cortes 

Your  Majesty  knows  that  when  Fernando  Cortes  first  came  to  this 
country,  he  was  sent  by  the  Governor  of  Cuba,  Diego  Velasquez,  to 
search  for  Grijalba,  who  had  been  sent  by  the  governor  with  a  fleet 
on  a  voyage  of  discovery.  Velasquez  ordered  Cortes  to  return  with 
Grijalba  in  case  he  found  him,  as  he  had  no  permission  from  your 
Majesty  to  undertake  conquests.  In  case  he  did  not  find  him,  the 
governor's  orders  were  that  Cortes  should  trade  along  the  coast,  ex- 
changing the  merchandise  he  had  brought  from  Cuba  for  that  purpose, 
for  gold;  after  which  he  was  to  return  to  Cuba.  As  Grijalba  was 
already  back  before  Cortes  set  sail,  the  latter  should  have  abandoned 
his  expedition  for,  with  the  cessation  of  the  cause,  the  effect  should 
cease.  Cortes,  however,  seeing  himself  in  command  of  men  and  ships, 
and  led  doubtless  by  an  inspiration  of  God,  who  wished  to  deliver  this 
country  from  the  devil,  did  not  obey  the  instructions  of  Velasquez. 
He  left,  and  guided  by  divine  Providence  he  soon  reached  the  first 
harbour  of  Mexico,  which  is  called  San  Juan  de  Ulua.  The  country 
pleased  him  greatly,  and  he  thought  to  render  Your  Majesty  a  great 
service  in  colonising  it.  He  therefore  landed,  contrary  to  the  orders 
he  had  received,  and  wrote  to  Your  Majesty  and  likewise  to  Diego 
Velasquez,  to  explain  his  conduct.  Some  approved  of  his  addressing 
himself  directly  to  Your  Majesty  and  sending  the  gold  he  had  obtained, 
but  others  blamed  him,  declaring  he  should  have  sent  it  to  Velasquez. 
Thus  the  force  of  Cortes  was  divided  into  two  parties,  but  his  friends 
prevailed  and  proclaimed  him  captain-general.  He  succeeded  in 
reducing  the  partisans  of  Velasquez  to  obedience,  though  only  after 
much  trouble,  for  they  even  tried  several  times  to  assassinate  him. 
Providence  preserved  him  for  the  conquest  of  this  country,  for  accord- 
ing to  all  impartial  people  it  would  never  have  been  accomplished 
without  him.  He  obtained  possession  of  all  Mexico  and  its  capital. 
Your  Majesty  knows  the  details  of  this  achievement. 

As  soon  as  the  country  was  subdued,  Cortes,  in  response  to  the 
prayer  of  Your  Majesty's  treasurer,  Julian  de  Alderete,  and  of  all  the 
conquerors,  made  a  repartition  of  the  Indians.  The  country  was  on 
the  verge  of  destruction,  for  under  pretext  of  seeking  provisions,  the 
Spaniards  took  possession  of  everything  they  found.  This  was  the 
reason  why  he  decided  to  make  that  repartition,  in  making  which  he 
however  secured  for  himself  and  his  friends  everything  most  worth 
having.  Many  of  the  conquerors,  and  especially  those  who  had  shown 
themselves  partisans  of  Diego  Velasquez,  were  little  satisfied  with 
the  share  he  allotted  them.  He  had  assigned  the  most  important 
towns  and  provinces  to  Your  Majesty,  but  afterwards  he  took  them 
away  from  the  royal  officials  who  were  already  in  possession  of  them, 
saying  that  by  giving  them  as  Encomiendas  to  individuals,  one  fifth 
of  the  tributes  which  the  holders  would  be  obliged  to  pay  would  bring 
more  to  the  royal  treasury,  while  all  the  profit  went  to  the  royal  offi-» 
cials  and  their  servants.  He  took  for  himself  the  royal  city  of  Texcoco, 
which  formerly  belonged  to  the  royal  domain,  and  distributed  the 

Appendix.     Fifth  Letter  361 

rest  as  he  pleased.  A  short  time  after  the  conquest  and  partition  of 
Mexico,  Your  Majesty's  officers,  Alonso  de  Estrada,  Rodrigo  de  Al- 
bornoz,  Gonzalo  de  Salazar,  and  Pero  Almendez  Chirino,  arrived. 
Cortes  gave  them  the  best  reception,  installing  them  in  their  offices 
and  overwhelming  them  with  favours.  They  all  made  him  the  greatest 
demonstrations  of  friendship,  including  even  the  factor  Salazar. 

At  that  time  Cortes  sent  captains  commanding  a  good  number  of 
men  to  explore  the  country  in  all  directions  and  to  examine  which 
provinces  would  it  be  most  suitable  to  colonise.  Among  these  there 
was  Cristobal  de  Olid,  whom  he  furnished  with  a  fleet  and  an  army  to 
colonise  the  province  of  Hibueras  and  the  Cape  of  Honduras,  which 
was  reputed  to  be  a  very  rich  country.  The  preparations  for  this  ex- 
pedition cost  Cortes  a  good  deal  of  money.  But  Cristobal  de  Olid,  who 
had  served  under  Cortes,  no  sooner  observed  the  wealth  of  the  country 
than  he  resolved  to  become  independent.  As  soon  as  Cortes  learned 
this,  he  despatched  several  officials  to  summon  him  to  recognise  his 
authority,  but  as  Olid  obstinately  refused  to  do  this,  Cortes  decided 
to  go  in  person,  nothing  daunted  by  the  difficulties  such  a  long  overland 
journey  offered. 

Cortes  set  out  therefore,  leaving  the  licenciate  Zuazo  as  chief  justice  of 
the  entire  country,  and  giving  him  power  to  decide  all  contentions. 
He  associated  the  treasurer,  Alonso  de  Estrada,  and  the  accountant, 
Albornoz,  with  him  in  the  government. 

Hardly  had  Cortes  left  the  city  when  Estrada  and  Albornoz  quar- 
relled, abusing  one  another,  and  even  drawing  their  swords.  Informed 
of  these  disorders  by  letters  which  he  received  from  Mexico,  Cortes 
sent  back  from  Guazacalco,  where  he  then  was,  the  factor  Gonzalo 
de  Salazar  and  the  inspector  Peralmindez  Chirino,  charging  them  to 
quell  the  disturbances.  He  gave  them  two  sets  of  instructions.  Ac- 
cording to  one  they  were,  should  they  find  Albornoz  and  Estrada 
reconciled,  merely  associated  with  the  government,  and  all  four  were 
to  govern  in  accord  with  the  licenciate  Zuazo,  who,  as  jurisconsult, 
retained  the  exclusive  administration  of  justice.  But  if  the  discord 
still  continued,  Salazar  and  Chirino  were  authorised  by  the  other  set 
of  instructions  to  assume  the  reins  of  government  alone.  Urged  by 
their  ambitions,  these  two  came  to  an  understanding  with  Albornoz 
who  so  thoroughly  detested  Estrada  that  he  consented  to  be  deprived 
of  his  own  power  if  only  the  other  were  involved  in  his  fall  and  punished, 
as  the  author  of  all  the  troubles. 

In  agreement  with  Albornoz,  the  envoys  of  Cortes  destroyed,  the 
first  instructions,  and  only  produced  the  others  which  provided  that 
since  Estrada  and  Albornoz  could  not  agree,  the  envoys  were  to  replace 
them  in  the  government.  At  first  Estrada  submitted,  but  becoming 
then  reconciled  with  Albornoz  and  learning  from  him  the  history  of 
the  destroyed  papers,  they  both  went  to  complain  to  the  licenciate 
Zuazo,  and  demanded  to  be  recognised  once  more  as  members  of 
the  government.     Zuazo  decided  in  their  favour,  but  many  troubles 


Letters  of  Cortes 

and  disorders  ensued  on  account  of  this  affair,  and  several  times  a 
civil  war  was  on  the  verge  of  breaking  out. 

Salazar  astutely  attached  himself  to  a  certain  Rodrigo  de  Paz,  who 
was  a  relative  of  Cortes,  and  held  the  office  of  alguacil  mayor.  The 
latter  exercised  great  influence  in  the  country  because  the  partisans 
of  Cortes  regarded  him  as  their  chief.  Sustained  by  such  an  one  Sala- 
zar ordered  the  arrest  of  the  treasurer  and  the  accountant,  and  hold- 
ing them  prisoners  in  their  own  houses,  he  began  to  proceed  against 
their  friends  and  partisans  upon  whom  he  inflicted  a  shameful  punish- 
ment in  public.  Again  a  civil  war  was  imminent  and  was  only 
avoided,  thanks  to  God  and  to  the  sermons  of  Father  Martin  de  Valen- 
cia and  some  other  holy  religious  men. 

As  soon  as  Salazar  and  Chirino  found  themselves  masters  of  the  gov- 
ernment, and  the  municipal  body  had  taken  the  oath  to  them,  they 
began  to  steal  right  and  left.  They  arrested  and  tortured  the  Indian 
chiefs  to  extort  their  gold  and  jewels  from  them.  They  distributed 
important  repartimientos  to  all  their  adherents.  Rodrigo  de  Paz  hav- 
ing ventured  to  make  some  observations,  and  having  sent  some  relig- 
ious men  to  make  them  understand  that  they  were  ruining  and  losing 
the  country,  they  arrested  him  to  free  themselves  from  the  importu- 
nate censures.  This  arrest  provoked  a  tumult,  and  for  the  third  time 
civil  war  threatened.  In  spite  of  all,  they  tried  him,  and  a  few  days 
later  they  hanged  him  after  inflicting  the  most  cruel  tortures  on  him. 
Some  time  before  this,  they  had  already,  on  I  know  not  what  pretext, 
seized  the  person  of  the  licenciate  Zuazo  whom  they  exiled,  together 
with  many  of  the  principal  adherents  of  Cortes,  so  that  nobody  could 
oppose  their  will,  and  they  might  be  absolute  masters  of  the  govern- 
ment, which,  in  their  hands,  was  the  most  disorderly  imaginable. 
About  this  time  Salazar  and  Chirino  spread  the  report  that  Cortes  had 
been  killed  by  the  Indians,  and  all  those  who  accompanied  him  on 
his  expedition  to  Hibueras  as  well.  The  friends  of  Cortes  contradicted 
this  news  which  so  irritated  the  others  that  they  had  public  proclama- 
tion made  to  the  effect  that  any  one  bold  enough  to  say  that  Cortes 
still  lived  should  receive  one  hundred  lashes.  Salazar  showed  himself 
especially  violent  against  Cortes,  whom  he  publicly  described  as  a 
heretic,  a  traitor,  and  an  usurper.  He  added  that  even  were  Cortes 
still  living,  he  would  never  allow  him  to  return  to  the  country;  that 
he  had  not  come  to  Mexico  as  factor,  but  that  he  carried  a  secret  order 
from  the  king  to  arrest  Cortes,  and  that  he  would  have  done  this  had 
the  latter  not  left  for  Hibueras. 

The  Spaniards  were  thus  again  divided  into  two  parties:  the  one 
to  which  Salazar  belonged  was  composed  of  the  former  friends  of 
Velasquez;  the  other,  of  those  of  Cortes.  Salazar  had  all  of  these 
latter  whom  he  could  catch  arrested,  and  the  others  took  refuge  in  the 
forests  when  the  news  of  their  chief's  death  was  spread  in  Mexico. 
Salazar  and  Chirino  forced  the  municipal  body  to  recognise  them  as 
governors  in  Your  Majesty's  name.     To  confirm  the  rumour  of  the 

Appendix.     Fifth  Letter  363 

death  of  Cortes,  they  celebrated  pompous  funeral  rites  in  his  honour, 
in  the  convent  of  St.  Francis.  They  took  possession  of  and  inven- 
toried all  he  owned,  and  sold  everything  at  the  lowest  price,  for  they 
were  careful  to  have  the  appraising  done  by  one  Hernando  Lopez,  one 
of  their  warmest  partisans.  When  the  sale  was  finished,  they  got  him 
to  lend  them  a  large  sum  of  gold  pesos  which  they  sent  to  Spain  for 
safety.  Salazar  also  pillaged  the  house  of  the  king  of  Texcoco,  who 
had  accompanied  Cortes  to  Hibueras,  saying  that  he  had  likewise 
perished  in  the  expedition.  It  is  certain  that  he  obtained  at  least  five 
or  six  thousand  gold  pesos,  though  it  is  said  that  there  were  more  than 
thirty  thousand. 

When  Cortes  and  his  friends  returned  to  Mexico,  they  could  never 
learn  exactly  what  had  been  taken  from  them,  because  the  man  who 
had  made  the  inventory  had  fled  to  Spain  where  he  died  in  prison  at 
Seville.  As  for  the  king  of  Texcoco  he  could  never  recover  anything 
of  all  they  had  taken  from  him. 

A  respectable  woman  whose  husband  had  accompanied  Cortes, 
having  declared  in  her  grief  that  the  news  was  false,  and  that  all  were 
well,  was  ordered  by  Salazar  to  receive  twenty  lashes  in  public,  as  a 
sorceress.  He  was  absolute  master  of  the  country,  which  he  governed 
like  a  tyrant,  and  he  had  enriched  his  partisans  with  the  Indians  and 
spoils  of  Fernando  Cortes  and  his  companions:  for  he  counted  upon 
their  self-interest  to  defend  and  support  him  should  the  latter  reap- 
pear; all  of  which  the  former  friends  of  Diego  Velasquez  who  had  joined 
his  party  were  quite  ready  to  do.  The  friends  of  Cortes,  afflicted  and 
despoiled  of  everything,  took  refuge  in  the  convents  awaiting  such  help 
as  God  might  send  them.  Every  week  Salazar  reviewed  his  soldiers, 
the  meanest  of  whom  bragged  that,  if  Cortes  was  still  alive,  he  would 
either  take  him  prisoner  or  kill  him  with  his  spear. 

Cortes  during  all  this  time  was  completely  ignorant  of  all  that  was 
happening.  He  learned  finally  from  a  ship  that  reached  Honduras, 
of  Salazar's  tyranny,  and  how  he  had  treated  his  friends.  As  he  could 
not  leave  the  country,  he  sent  one  of  his  pages  to  Mexico  bearing  a 
revocation  of  his  former  patents  and  another  by  which  he  annulled 
all  the  powers  of  the  royal  officers  who  had  by  their  abuses  produced 
such  a  conflagration.  He  appointed  his  kinsman,  Francisco  de  las 
Casas,  governor  in  their  stead.  But  when  the  page  reached  Mexicot 
Francisco  de  las  Casas  had  long  since  disappeared,  for  Salazar  had 
sent  him  a  prisoner  to  Spain,  in  order  to  get  rid  of  him.  The  page, 
fearing  that  the  tyrant  might  hang  him,  took  refuge  in  the  convent  of 
St.  Francis.  When  the  news  of  his  arrival  spread  through  the  town, 
Estrada,  Albornoz,  Salazar,  Chirino,and  their  partisans  were  greatly 
astonished,  for  there  was  hardly  any  one  left  who  believed  Cortes  to 
be  still  alive.  When  the  former  of  these  saw  the  letter  of  Cortes  revok- 
ing all  the  powers  he  had  given,  they  thought  it  a  favourable 
opportunity  to  revenge  themselves  on  Salazar,  for  all  the  affronts  he 
had  inflicted  on  them.     They  assembled  secretly  in  the  convent  of  St. 

364  Letters  of  Cortes 

Francis,  summoning  together  all  the  friends  of  Cortes  who  had  taken 
refuge  there.  The  latter  did  not  dare  to  disobey  Your  Majesty's  prin- 
cipal officers,  who  ordered  them  to  follow  them.  They  assembled  all 
the  alcaldes  and  regidors  in  a  house  and  made  them  deliver  to  them 
the  staff  of  justice  as  lieutenants  of  the  governor,  although  they  had 
no  powers  to  show.  Then  they  adjourned  uproariously  to  the  house 
of  Cortes,  where  Salazar  was  installed.  The  latter  had  intrenched 
himself,  and  had  with  him  many  of  his  friends,  well  armed,  though 
many  had  already  deserted  him.  The  assailants  broke  down  the 
doors  of  the  house  by  means  of  artillery  and  captured  Salazar  amidst 
such  disorder  that  it  is  really  a  miracle  that  everything  was  not  lost 
on  that  day,  for  the  Indians  had  resolved  to  profit  by  that  occasion 
to  fall  upon  the  Spaniards,  massacre  them  to  the  last  man,  and  liberate 
their  country. 

Estrada  and  Albornoz,  masters  of  the  person  of  Salazar  and  liberators 
of  Chirino  who  had  fled,  began  to  govern  in  such  wise  as  to  fill  their 
pockets.  They  took  a  large  number  of  Indians  for  themselves,  dis- 
tributed others  amongst  their  friends,  and  began  legal  proceedings 
against  those  who  had  sided  with  their  enemies.  Several  of  these  lat- 
ter were  decapitated  or  hanged,  and  the  others  took  refuge  in  convents, 
though  some  were  even  dragged  out  from  them  to  be  executed.  All 
were  deprived  of  their  Indians  and  persecuted  in  every  possible  manner. 

While  Mexico  was  being  devoured  by  this  conflagration,  Cortes  came 
back.  When  it  was  known  that  he  had  left  the  port  and  was  approach- 
ing the  capital,  an  incredible  dismay  spread  through  the  city.  Every- 
body wanted  to  file  complaints  of  the  executions,  robberies,  and 
vexations  which  had  taken  place.  Some  accused  Salazar  and  Chirino 
who  were  prisoners,  while  others  accused  Estrada  and  Albornoz  who 
were  governing. 

When  Cortes  beheld  the  skein  he  had  to  untangle,  he  retired  to 
the  convent  of  St.  Francis,  where  he  confessed,  received  the  commun- 
ion, and  afterwards  consulted  the  Superior,  and  the  wisest  religious 
men  concerning  all  that  had  happened,  and  the  attitude  he  should 
adopt.  But  just  at  that  time,  the  licenciate  Luis  de  Leon,  whom  Your 
Majesty  sent  as  judge  of  residencia,  arrived  in  New  Spain.  As  soon 
as  he  had  exhibited  his  powers  all  the  officers  of  justice  consigned  their 
wands  of  office  to  him.  But  a  few  days  later  God  called  him  hence. 
Judging  from  the  good  report  I  have  had  of  him  from  those  who  knew 
him,  his  death  was  beyond  doubt  a  punishment  which  it  pleased 
Providence  to  inflict  on  this  country.  He  had  designated  the  licen- 
ciate Marcos  de  Aguilar  as  his  successor,  but  as  the  latter  was  very 
old,  his  infirmities  prevented  him  from  accomplishing  anything.  He 
died  within  a  short  time,  after  having  named  the  treasurer,  Estrada, 
to  succeed  him. 

During  the  government  of  Alonso  de  Estrada  and  Gonzalo  de  Sand- 
oval, Nuno  de  Guzman  arrived  in  the  province  of  Panuco,  where  Your 
Majesty  sent  him  as  governor.     He  had  been  to  the  island  Hispaniola 

Appendix.     Fifth  Letter  365 

and  Cuba,  where  he  stopped  for  some  time.  The  inhabitants  of  these 
islands,  who  were  for  the  most  part  enemies  of  Cortes  and  envious  of 
the  high  position  he  had  obtained,  took  advantage  of  Nufio  de  Guz- 
man's stay  there  to  prejudice  the  latter  against  him.  Guzman  warmly- 
espoused  the  side  of  Velasquez,  influenced  by  his  kinsman,  Gonzalo 
de  Guzman,  who  is  now  governor  of  Cuba,  and  had  been  a  long  time 
in  his  service. 

As  soon  as  he  took  possession  of  his  government,  he  began  to  show 
his  ill-will  by  writing  a  most  insolent  letter  to  Cortes,  while  to  the  factor, 
Salazar,  who  was  then  in  prison,  he  wrote  another  filled  with  proofs  of 
friendship  towards  him.  He  kept  up  a  constant  correspondence  with  Sa- 
lazar and  even  went  to  the  length  of  considering  as  his  own  personal  ene- 
mies, all  those  who  maintained  that  Cortes,  far  from  being  a  traitor,  had 
rendered  very  great  services  to  your  Majesty.  Some  of  these  people 
he  caused  to  be  whipped,  and  he  smashed  the  teeth  of  others  with  a 
stick,  though  they  were  guilty  of  no  other  crimes.  He  even  dared  to 
seize  some  persons  on  Mexican  territory,  whom  he  hanged.  He  in- 
fringed on  the  jurisdiction  of  Cortes,  taking  possession  of  a  number 
of  villages  which  were  held  in  encomienda  by  inhabitants  of  Mexico; 
he  inflicted  tortures  and  vexations  on  the  caciques,  and  established 
garrisons  among  them  to  force  them  to  acknowledge  his  authority.  So 
irritated  were  the  inhabitants  of  Mexico  by  Guzman's  conduct  that 
one  of  the  greatest  proofs  of  respect  and  obedience  they  could  have 
given  Your  Majesty  was  to  refrain  from  taking  arms  and  marching 
against  him.  Before  leaving  for  Spain,  Cortes  exhausted  every  effort 
to  tranquillise  Estrada  and  Sandoval,  who  were  both  very  much  irri- 
tated. They  consequently  confined  themselves  to  notifying  Guzman 
that  he  need  write  them  no  more  such  letters  as  they  would  neither 
receive  nor  read  them.  Guzman  had  become  the  chief  of  Velasquez's 
partisans,  and  the  foremost  enemy  of  Cortes  both  because  of  the  im- 
pressions he  had  already  received  before  he  landed  in  Mexico  and  also 
in  consequence  of  the  influence  which  the  factor,  Salazar,  exercised 
upon  him  after  his  arrival.  He  hoped,  with  the  latter's  aid,  to  suceed 
in  expelling  Cortes  from  his  government,  and  to  obtain  possession  of 
it  himself,  for  it  is  the  demon  of  ambition  and  avarice  that  has  been 
the  cause  of  all  the  crimes  which  have  ravaged  this  unhappy  country. 

The  remainder  of  the  letter  deals  with  the  conduct  of  Nunez  de 
Guzman,  Delgadillo,  and  others  during  the  absence  of  Cortes  in  Spain. 


Acahuilguin,  lord  of  Acuculin, 
II,  280 

Acalan,  province  of,  II,  256  ff; 
description  of,  263 

Acolhuacan,  I,  247 

Acolman,  II,  56;  disturbance  be- 
tween Captains  at,  63 

Acuculin,  province  of,  II,  280; 
arrival  at,  282 

Adelantado,  note  on,  II,  169 

Agoes,  note  on,  II,  243 

Aguilar,  Jeronimo  de,  I,  143,  144 

Aguilar,  Marcos  de,  succeeds 
Ponce  de  Leon  as  commissioner, 
1,51;    Cortes  reports  on,  II .  341 

Aiutecatl,  I,  31 

Alaman,  Lucas,  account  of  con- 
cealment of  Cortes's    remains, 

I,  7o/f 

Alaminos,  Anton  de,  note  on,  I, 

Alango,  Fortunio  de,  II,  349 
Albornoz,    Rodrigo   de,   note  on, 

II,  230;    Bishop    Zumarraga's 
account  of  his  conduct,  361^ 

Alderete,  Julian  de,  arrives  at 
Vera  Cruz,  II,  40 ;  at  Tacuba,  5 1 ; 
urges  attack  on  the  market- 
place, 91;  altercation  with 
Cortes,  97 

Almeria,  I,  192 

Altamirano,  Fray  Diego  de,  cousin 
of  Cortes,  hisdespatches,  11,33  x 

Alvarado,  Pedro  de,  sent  back 
to  Cuba  by  Grijalba  I,  17;  dis- 
obedience of,  25;  massacres 
Mexican  nobles,  284,  350;  note 
on,  II,  60;  quarrels  with  Olid, 
63;  disastrous  repulse  of,  8jjf; 
assault  on  the  market-place  by, 
115;  expedition  to  Tututepe- 
que,  142^1  sent  to  Guatemala, 
178;  negotiations  with  Ovalle, 
182;  departs  for  Tehuantepec, 
196;  in  Guatemala,  332 

Amazons,    legendary    island    of, 

II,  177,  178 
Amecameca,  I,  228 
Amohan,    lord    of    Checan,     II, 

Animals,  Mexican,  I,  161 
Apaspolon,   chief  of  Acalan,    II, 

256;  deceives  Cortes,  258;  his 

wealth,  264 
Apolochic,  river,  II,  299 
Aqueducts,  description  of,  I,  262; 

destruction  of,  II,  64 
Armada,  vessels  of  Cortes's,  1,155; 

of  Narvaez,  272 
Ascension,  bay  of,  I,  133 
Atzcapotzalco,  note  on,  II,  34 
Avila,  Pedrarius  de,  note  on,  I, 

125;  note  on,  II,  231;  troubles 

in  his  colony,  328 
Axucutaco,  province  of,  II,  322 
Ayachapichtla,  battle  of,  II,  38 
Ay  lion,  Vasquez  de,  note  on,  I, 



Bacallaos,  note  on,  II,  207 
Balboa,      Nunez     de,     discovers 

Pacific  Ocean,  I,  15;  death  of, 

II,  232 
Banner,  Cortes's,  I,  203 
Barbo,  Pedro,  mortally  wounded, 

II,  88 
Barrientos,     Hernando     de,     his 

letter    to  from    Chinantla    II, 

Bees,  varieties  of,  I,  145 

Bono  de  Quejo,  Juan,  his  mission, 
II,  166 

Brigantines,  building  of,  I,  320; 
progress  of,  II,  7;  transported 
from  Tlascala,  31/f;  launching 
of,  59;  first  action  of,  66#; 
one  captured  by  Mexicans,  88, 

Burgos,  Bishop  of,  note  on,   II, 
166,  167 




Cacamatzin,  king  of  Texcoco,   I, 

249;  note  on,  249 
Cacao,  I,  244 
Cagoatan,    character  of  country, 

II.  239 

Caltanmic,  I,  196 

Canal,  built  at  Texcoco,  II,  58 

Canec,  lord  of  Taiza,  II,  271; 
conversion  of,  272 

Cannibalism,  provisions  for  In- 
dian troops,  II,  104;  feasting  of 
the  Allies,  1 1 1 ;  Cortes  punishes, 

Canno,  Sebastian  del,  death  of,  II, 

Cannon,  the  silver,  II,  211,  212 
Catapult,  failure  of  the,  II,  117, 

Catoche,  note  on,  I,   127;  battle 

at,  134;  crosses  at,  175 
Catzolcin,  note  on,  II,  161 
Causeway,    approaching    Mexico, 

I,  233 ;  camp  on  the,  II,  70 
Cempoal,  I,  190 

Chalchuihcuecan,  I,  247;  II,  334 
Chalco,  I,  226;  II,  22JJ 
Chapagua,  town  of,  II,  317 
Cherubusco,  II,  54 
Chichemecatl,      exploits      during 

siege,  II,  31,  98,  102 
Chichimecas,    expedition  against, 

and  note  on,  II,  353 
Chihuacoatl,  II,  125 
Chila,  town  and  lake,  II,  171 
Chilapan,  town  of,  II,  240 
Chinantla,  events  in,  and  note  on, 

II,  56,  57 

Chirino,  Pero  Armildez,  note  on, 
II,  230;  Bishop  Zumarraga's 
account  of  his  conduct, 

Cholula,  note  on,  I,  212;  embassy 
from,  215;  arrival  of  Cortes  at, 
216;  massacre  at,  217^;  feud 
with  Tlascala,  220;  description 
of  city,  220 

Citlatepetl,  II,  146 

Citlatlepoc,  II,  56 

Civilisation,   origins    of  Mexican, 

I,  336/f 
Coanacochtzm,  note  on,  II,  13 
Coatelicamat,   description  of  his 

country,  I,  243 
Coatlinchan,  II    14 
Coatzacoalco,  river  of,  I,  245 
Coins,  values  of,  I,  136 

Colhua,  I,  225 

Columbus,  Diego,  congress  Cuba, 
I,  6 ;  note  on,  123  ;  his  expedition 
to  Panuco,  II,  170 

Cotnunidades,  note  on,  II,  168 

Conspiracy  at  Vera  Cruz,  I,  167, 

Cordoba,  Francisco  Fernandez  de, 
expedition,  I,  15,  125;  death,  16 

Corral,  Cristobal,  II,  43 

Cortes,  Fernando,  birth  and  fam- 
ily, I,  3;  education  and  early 
life,  ^ff;  quarrel  with  Velasquez, 
10;  appointed  commander  by 
Velasquez,  19,  138;  sails  for 
Cozumel,  25;  policy  towards 
Indians,  25;  character  of  his 
men,  26;  compared  with  Caesar, 
27;  dealings  with  Tapia,  29, 
138/jF;  diplomacy  of,  30^;  influ- 
ences governing  his  conduct,  3  5 ; 
Prescott's  opinion,  36,  37;  his 
Christianity,  38;  dialogue  with 
Penn,  39;  justifying  motives, 
42 ;  relations  with  women,  42/f ; 
second  marriage,  44,  55;  ex- 
pedition to  Yucatan,  44;  Char- 
nay's  estimation  of ,  45;  friend- 
ship for  Indians,  47;  later 
difficulties  of,  49;  accusations 
against, 50 ;  returns  to  Spain,  5 1 ; 
honours  conferred  on,  54;  his 
emeralds,  55;  arrival  in  Mexico, 
57 ff;  expeditions  in  Pacific 
Ocean,  59^;  Voltaire's  anecdote 
on,  6 1 ;  last  letter  to  Charles  V. 
62/f;  death  of,  66;  funeral  in 
Mexico,  69;  mystery  of  burial 
place  6aff;  last  will,  77^;  nego- 
tiations at  Cozumel,  139/f;  res- 
cues Spaniards  in  Yucatan,  141 ; 
at  Tabasco,  146/f;  founds  Vera 
Cruz,  157;  first  description  of 
Mexico,  1  toff;  destroys  his  ships, 
189;  at  Cempoal,  190;  at  Xochi- 
milco,  1 94 ;  first  news  of  Tlascala, 
197 ;  his  standard,  203 ;  murmur- 
ings  against,  206;  alliance  with 
Tlascala,  207;  ideas  of  jus- 
tice, 215;  enters  Cholula,  216; 
massacre  and  results  in  Cholula, 
217^;  arrives  at  Chalco,  226; 
enters  Mexico,  232;  first  meet- 
ing with  Montezuma,  234 ;  plans 
to  take  Montezuma  prisoner, 
238;  reports  on  mines  and  agri- 
culture, 242-4;  searches  for  har- 
bour, 245^7  describes   Mexico, 



Cortes,  Fernando  (Continued) 
256/f;  overthrows  the  idols,  260 ; 
letter  to  Narvaez,  270,  271; 
leaves  the  city,  277;  negotia- 
tions with  Narvaez,  280/^;  de- 
feats Narvaez,  282;  return 
march  to  Mexico,  285;  captures 
Teocalli,  291 ;  narrow  escape  of, 
295;  retreats  from  Mexico, 
296/f;  arrives  at  Tlascala,  302; 
at  Guacachula,  311;  builds 
brigantines,  320 ;  proposes  name 
for  Mexico,  322;  reviews  forces 
at  Tlascala,  II,  8;  speech  to 
Tlascalans,  9;  march  to  Mexico, 
10;  at  Texcoco,  15;  destroys 
Iztapalapan,  18;  receives  brig- 
antines, 32;  at  Tacuba,  34/f; 
messages  to  Quauhtemotzin  40, 
41;  begins  hostilities,  42/f; 
captures  Cuernavaca,  46;  nar- 
row escape  at  Xochimilco,  50; 
begins  the  siege,  60;  commands 
brigantines,  66;  second  narrow 
escape  of,  95;  wounded,  97; 
inspects  market-place,  116;  re- 
ports on  the  treasure,  130; 
builds  ships  on  the  Pacific,  144; 
plot  to  murder,  144,  145;  cam- 
paigning in  Panuco,  171/f; 
appointed  Captain-General,  180 ; 
dealings  with  Garay,  188/f; 
reports  ship-building,  199,  200; 
on  rebuilding  Mexico,  2ooff; 
gun  casting,  204;  manufactures 
ammunition,  205;  casts  silver 
culverin,  211;  complains  of 
Velasquez,  213;  converting  In- 
dians, 213,  214;  opinions  of 
bishops,  lawyers,  and  doctors, 
214;  ordinances  of,  218; 
expedition  to  Yucatan  and 
Honduras,  230;  bridge  building, 
235.  239,  253/7;  reports  execu- 
tion of  Quauhtemotzin;  at 
Peten-Itza,  274;  receives  tidings 
from  Nito,  283 ;  arrives  at  Nito, 
286;  dangerous  journey  on 
rafts,  299^;  reception  in  Hon- 
duras, 308;  report  of  his  death, 
note  on,  321;  receives  dis- 
quieting news  from  Mexico, 
321/f;  embarks  for  Vera  Cruz, 
323;  reports  on  slave  trade, 
333;  sails  for  Vera  Cruz,  334; 
in  Havana,  334/f;  arrival  at 
reception  at  Vera  Cruz,  335; 
arrival  in  City  of  Mexico,  336/f; 

accusations  against,  341/f;  ren- 
ders an  account,  344;  proposes 
to  return  to  Spain,  346;  peti- 
tions a  pension,  347^;  reports 
on  South  Sea  expeditions, 
350;  on  province  of  Zapoteca, 
351;  his  treatment  of  Nufio 
de  Guzman,  352;  expedition 
against  the  Chichimecas,  353 

Coscatlan,  note  on,  II,  171 

Cozumel,  discovery  of,  I,  16; 
note  on,  123;  Cortes  at,  139; 
crosses  at,  175 

Cronberger,  Juan,  editions  of 
Cortes 's  letters,  I,  103 

Cruelty,  wholesale  executions  in 
Panuco,  II,  193 

Cruzada,  Bula  de  la,  II,  138 

Cuauhtitlan,  II,  34 

Cuba,  conquest  of,  I,  7;  note  on, 

Cuernavaca,  capture  of,  and  note 
on,  II,  46/f 

Cuicuitcatzin,  I,  250 

Cuitlahuac,  description  of  town, 
I,  229;  II,  54 

Cuitlahuaczin,  note  on,  I,  318; 
measures  for  defence,  321 

Cuzula,  report  on,  I,  242 

Darien,  note  on,  II,  179 

Diaz  del  Castillo,  Bernal,  describes 
sailing  of  expedition  under 
Cortes,  I,  20,  21;  life  and 
writings,  109 

Dircio,  Pedro,  II,  43 

Duero,  Andres  de,  I,  281 


Empire,  extent  of  Aztec,  I,  264; 
taxes  in,  265 

Encomienda,  note  explaining,  II, 

Escudero,  Juan,  takes  Cortes 
prisoner,  I,  11;  hanged,  167 

Espiritu  Santo,  foundation  of,  II, 

Estrada,  Alonso  de,  note  on,  II, 
230;  Bishop  Zumarraga's  ac- 
count of  his  conduct,  361^ 

Famine,  during  the  siege,  II,  112, 

Fernandina,  see  Cuba 



Fernando,  Don,  King  of  Texcoco, 
II,  21,  22;  election  of,  25; 
supplies  reinforcements  to  Cor- 
tes, 77,  78;  note  on,  78;  death 
of,  146;  note  on,  146 
Figueroa,  Rodrigo  de,  I,  320 
Fonseca,  Juan  de,  note  on,  II, 
166,  167 

Gallego,  Pedro,  captured  at  Ta- 
cuba,  II,  50,  55 

Garay,  Francisco  de,  note  on,  I, 
191;  first  expedition  to  Mexico, 
192/f;  disastrous  expedition  of, 
307;  his  men  at  Panuco,  321; 
arrival  in  Panuco,  II,  179/f; 
note  on  his  expedition  and 
death,  180-81;  defection  of  his 
men,  186;  death  of,  190 

Gomara,  Francisco  de,  chaplain 
of  Cortes,  I,  10;  version  of 
quarrel  between  Cortes  and 
Velasquez,  nff;  life  and  writ- 
ings, 108 

Gonzalez,  Gil,  in  Honduras,  II, 

Grijalba,  Juan  de,  captain  of 
Velasquez's  first  expedition,  I, 
16,  131;  his  discoveries,  17; 
returns  to  Cuba,  18,  136;  note 
on,  131;  river  so  named,  135; 
imprisoned  at  Santestevan  del 
Puerto,  II,  185 

Guajocingo,  I,  226 

Guanajos,  Los,  islands  of,  II, 

Guatemala,  messenger  to  Cortes 
from,  II,  178 

Guevara,   Santiago  de,   death  of, 

II,  349 
Guzman,  Cristobal  de,  II,  96 
Guzman,  Gonzalo  de,  I,  131 
Guzman,  Nunez  de,  governor  of 
Panuco,  I,  51;  proceeds  against 
Cortes,    56;   note   on  his   atro- 
cities, II,  352 


Hanega  explained,  I,  244 
Hernandez,  Alonzo,  captured  at 

Xochimilco,  II,  50 
Hernandez,   Francisco,   at  Naco, 

II,  328 
Hererra,    Antonio    de,    life    and 

writings,  I,  116 

Honduras,  expedition  sent  by- 
Cortes  to,  II,  194/jF;  note  on 
name,  229 

Holquin,  Garci, captures  Quauhte- 
motzin,  II,   127;   note   on,    128 

Huaquechula,  I,  309;  capture  of, 
311;  description  of,  314 

Huaxtepec,  II,  37 

Huexothla,  II,  14 

Hueyothlipan,  I,  302 

Huilacho,  outrages  in,  II,  329 

Huisuco,  II,  100 

Huititla,  island  of,  II,  333 

Huitzilopochtli,  I,  348 

Icazbalceta,  Manuel  Garcia,  his 
writings,  I,  118 

Idols,  description  of,  I,  262;  de- 
struction of,  34$ff 

Impilcingo,  expedition  to,  II,  176 

Ixhuacan,  I,  195 

Ixtacmaxtitlan,  I,  197 

Ixtlilxochitl,  joins  Cortes,  II,  13; 
note  on,  78;  conduct  during  the 
siege,  78 

Iztapalapan,  description  of,  I, 
230';  destruction  of,  II,  18 

Iztapan,  march  to,  II,  242 

Izzucan,  I,  315;  disputed  succes- 
sion at,  316,  317 

Jamaica,  I,  141 

Jeronymite  Fathers,  applied  to  by 

Velesquez,  I,  18,  131;  note  on, 

Judges,  Aztec,  I,  259 
Julian,  captured  by  Cordoba,  I, 

16;  interprets  for  Cortes,  25 

Lakes  of  Chalco  and  Texcoco,  I, 

Languages,  note  on  Indian,  II, 

Lara,  Juan  de,  captured  at 
Xochimilco,  II,  50 

Las  Casas,  Bast  Glome*  de,  version 
of  quarrel  between  Cortes  and 
Velasquez,  I,  gff;  life  and 
writings,  114 

Las  Casas,  Francisco  de,  hostili- 
ties against  Olid  in  Honduras, 
II,  309/f 



Laws,  sumptuary,  in  Mexico,  II, 

Loaysa,  Garcia  Jofre  de,  fate  of 

his  expedition,  II,  349 


Malinalco,  II,  100 
Malinaltepeque,    gold      from,     I, 

Maquahuitl,  described,  I,  202 
Marina,   I,  42  ff;  first  mentioned, 

217;  note  on,  327/f;  with  Cortes 

in  Honduras,  II,  273 
Market-place,  in  city  of  Mexico, 

I>    2Slffi    attack    on,    II,    92; 

Spaniards  repulsed  at,  96 ;  note 

on,  9777 
Martyr,  Peter  de  Angleria,  life  and 

writings,  I,  115 
Massacre  of  Mexican    nobles,   I, 

Matalcingo, expedition  against,  II, 


Maxixcatzin,  I,  207;  kindness  to 
Cortes,  303;  holds  Tlascala  to 
the  Spanish  alliance,  319;  death 
of,  II,  7 

Mazatl,  execution  of,  II,  326 

Medellin,  in  Estremadura,  birth- 
place of  Cortes,  I,  3;  in  Mexico, 
foundation  and  naming  of,  II, 
135;  transfer  of,  206 

Medrano,  II,  88 

Melchor,  captured  by  Cordoba,  I, 
16;  interprets  for  Cortes,  25 

Melgarejo,  Fray  Pedro,  arrives  at 
Vera  Cruz,  II,  40;  at  Tacuba, 
51;  note  on,  138;  negotiations 
with  Cristobal  de  Tapia,  138/jf 

Mendoza,  Alonzo  de,  II,  3 

Merlo,  Rodrigo  de,  slave-hunting, 

,    II.  333 

Metztithlan,  II,  164 

Mexicalcingo,  description  of,  I, 
232;  adheres  to  Cortes,  II,  41 

Mexico,  description  by  Cortes,  I, 
256/f;  fighting  in,  287/f;  note  on, 
S3°ff>  civilisation  of,  336/f; 
siege  of,  II,  60;  completely  in- 
vested, 7 1 ;  first  general  assault 
on,  73/jF;  second  general  assault 
on,  80;  third  general  assault  on, 
82/jf;  defection  of  vassals,  84,  85 ; 
note  on,  88  ;  gallant  defence  of, 
95ff;  destruction  begins,  ioSjf; 
suffering  in,  112;  fall  of,  125; 
note   on,    127^;   rebuilding  of, 

135,    201,    202;    notes  on  new 

divisions  of,  202,  203 
Michoacan,  messengers  to  Cortes, 

II,  130;  note  on  1 3 1 ;  messengers 

return  from,  136;  disaffection  of 

Spaniards  in,  162 
Mixquic,  II,  54 
Monjaraz,  Andres  de,  I43  s, 
Montafio,  Francisco  deprisocures 

sulphur  from  volcano,  II,  205 
Montejo,  Francisco  de,  I,  160,  179 
Montezuma,  Spaniards  first  hear 

of,   I,    17;  his  ambassadors  to 

Cortes,  34,   148;  note  on,   187; 

second  embassy  to  Cortes,  211; 

efforts  to    stop     Cortes,     227; 

receives  Cortes,  233;  discourse 

of,  234/7,'  imprisoned,  238/^;  in 

chains,  240 ;  betrays  Cacamatzin 

249;  speech  to  his  nobles,  251; 

his  empire,  263;  palaces,  265/f; 

etiquette,   267;   death  of,   288, 

.   35i# 

Moreno,   Pedro,   his     conduct   in 

Honduras,  II,  312/f;  report  of 

intrigues  at  Naco,  328 
Motolinia,  Fray  Toribio,  life  and 

writings,  I,  115 


Naco,  note  on,  II,  284;  Spaniards 

at,  290 
Narvaez,    Panfilo    de,    arrival    in 

Mexico,  I,  269;  his  designs,  271; 

note  on,  272;  negotiations  with 

Cortes,  278/f;  defeat  of,  282 
Natividad,  foundation  of,  II,  304 
Nautlan,  II,  41 
Nieto,  Diego,  II,  286 
Night,  the  Sorrowful,  I,  296/f 
Nito,  note  on,  II,  284;  Spaniards 

settled   there,  284/f;   their  sad 

plight,  286;  desperate  situation 

of  Cortes  at,  289 

Oaxaca,  1,317;  expedition  against, 

II,  i33ff 
Obsidian,  note  on,  II,  198 
Ocampo,  Diego  de,  note  on,  II, 

Ocupatuyo,  I,  313 
Ojeda,  adventures  and  death  of, 

II,  179 
Olea,  Cristobal  de,  at  Xochimilco, 

II,  50;  death  of,  95,  97 



Olid,  Cristobal  de,  lands  at 
Cozumel,  I,  17;  position  during 
the  siege,  II,  61;  hostilities  at 
Coyohuacan,  65;  sent  to  Hon- 
duras, 179;  his  departure,  194; 
note  on,  194,  195;  history  of 
his  rebellion,  soSff;  execution 
of,  310;  Bishop  Zumarraga's 
account  of  his  rebellion,  36 iff 

Ordaz,  Diego  de,  ascends  Popoca- 
tapetl,  I,  224;  note  on,  II,  159 

Orizaba,  volcano  of,  I,  161;  note 
on,  II,  146 

Orozco  y  Berra,  Manuel,  Historia 
Antiqua,  I,  117 

Otomies,  join  Cortes,  note  on,  II, 
79;  seek  assistance,  103 

Otumba,  Battle  of,  I,  300,  301; 
messengers  from,  II,  20 

Ovando,  Nicolas  de,  appointed 
governor  of  Hispaniola,  I,  4 

Oviedo,  Gonzalo  Fernandez  de, 
life  and  writings,  I,  in 

Palmas,  Rio  de  las,  note  on,  II, 

Palos,  note  on,  I,  127 
Panuco,   I,  308;    rebellion  in,  II, 

Papayeca,  town  of,  II,  317 
Pasquinades,  on  the  treasure,  II, 

Paz,    Rodrigo   de,   imprisoned  in 

Mexico,  II,  322;   execution  of, 

Peace,  first  overtures  for,  II,  105; 

renewed  proposals  for,  120 
Penn,   William,  ghostly  dialogue 

with  Cortes,  I,  39 
Perez,    Alonzo,    with    Cortes    at 

Tacuba,  II,  51 
Peten-Itza,  Cortes  arrives  at,  II, 

26gff;    note     on,    270;     deified 

horse  at,  274 
Pinzon,  Vicente  Yafiez,  I,  133 
Pitzacura,    capture    of,    II,    326; 

death  of,  327 
Plot,  to  murder  Cortes,  II,   144; 

note  on,  145 
Ponce   de   Leon,  Juan,   discovers 

Florida,  I,  15;  note  on,  II,  106 
Ponce  de  Leon,  Luis,  sent  as  com- 
missioner   to    Mexico,     I,     50; 

arrival  and  note  on,  II,  3 3  iff; 

death  of,  340 
Popocatapetl,  described,  I,  223 

Prescott,  William  H.,  notice  of 
his  conquest  of  Mexico,  I,  117 

Priests,  Aztec,  I,  259 

Provincials,  first  named  for  re- 
ligious Orders,  II,  216 

Puertocarrero,  Alonzo  Hernan- 
dez, I,  160,  180 

Puerto  del  Alabastro,  named  by 
Cortes,  II,  269 

Pulque,  I,  258 

Quauhpopoca,  I,  236^;  his  death, 

Quauhtemotzin, sends  force  against 

Chalco,  II,  39;  conduct  during 

the  siege,  97;  refusals  to  make 

peace,    12 off;  capture   of,    127; 

torture  of,   128;     death  of,  II, 

26off;  note  on,  262 
Quetzalcoatl,    note    on,    I,    340^; 

temple  of,  347 
Quinones,  Antonio  de,  II,  95 
Quintero,  Alonzo,  captain  of  ship 

in  which  Cortes  first  sailed,  I,  5 


Rangel,  Rodrigo,  sent  against  the 

Zapotecas,  II,  198 
Requirement  addressed  to  Cortes, 

I,  157;  formality  explained,  177 
Residencia,  note  on,  I,  169 
Robertson,    William,    opinion    of 

Cortes's  letters,  I,   101;  works 

referred  to,  118 
Roche,    Gaspard,    stands    surety 

for  colonists,  II,  313 
Rodelas,  explained,  I,  134 
Rojas,  Gabriel  de,  expedition  of, 

II,  330 

Ruano,  Juan,   intrigues  in  Hon- 
duras, II,  313/f 

Saavedra,  Hernando  de,  lieuten- 
ant, in  Honduras,  II,  323 

Sacrifices,  human,  I,  164,  181; 
number  of  victims,  345;  Span- 
iards sacrificed,  II,  88;  note  on, 
gjff;  in  Acalan,  258 

Salazar,  Gonzalo  de,  note  on,  II, 
230;  Bishop  Zumarraga's  ac- 
count of  his  conduct,  361 

Salt,  note  on,  I,  208 

San  Andres,  note  on  name,  II,  290 



Sandoval,  Gonzalo  de,  death,  I, 
53;  281,  note  on,  II,  22;  expedi- 
tion to  Chalco,  2377;  expedition 
to  Tlascala,  29/f;  return  to 
Chalco,  37,  38;  position  during 
siege,  61;  wounded,  72;  sent  to 
help  Otomies,  103;  negotiates 
with  Tapia,  140 

San  Estevan  del  Puerto,  founda- 
tion of,  II,  174 

San  Hipolito,  feast  of,  II,  129 

San  Juan  de  Puerta  Latina,  1,133 

San  Juan  de  Ulua,  island  of, 
derivation  of  name,  I,  17;  note 
on,  132 

San  Martin,  I,  271 

Santiago  de  Cuba,  I,  125 

Santiago,  Spanish  battle-cry,  II, 

Segura  de  la  Frontera,  foundation, 

I,  308;  change  of  site,  II,  163; 
mutiny  at,  164 

Settlements,  Spanish,  I,  126 

Siege,  beginning  of  the,  II,  60; 
duration  of,  129 

Singuatepecpan,  II,  248;  arrival 
at,  249;  Christian  propaganda 
at,  252 

Slavery,  Cortes  sanctions  servi- 
tude of  natives,  II,  147,  148; 
natives  branded  and  sold,  166; 
Cortes  orders  branding,  199; 
the  trade,  33277 

Small-pox  introduced  by  Span- 
iards, II,  6 

Solis,  Juan  Diaz  de,  discovers 
River  Plate,  I,  15 

Sotelo  builds  the  catapult,  II,  117 

Soto,  Diego  de,  II,  140 

South   Sea,   inquiries  concerning, 

II,  131;  efforts  to  reach,  131/7 
Spain,  New,  name  proposed  by 

Cortes,  I,  322 
Strait,  search  for  the,  II,  20777 

Tabasco,    discovery   of   river,    I, 

131;  fighting  at,  147 
Tacuba,  destruction  of,  II,  34 
Taiza,    Cortes   marches  towards, 

II,  269 
Tamazollan,  I,  319 
Tanjuco,  note  on,  II,  190 
Tapia,  Cristobal  de,  his  dealings 

with  Cortes,  I,   29;  arrival  at 

Vera  Cruz,  II,  138;  note  on,  138 
Tasco,  tin  mines  of,  II,  204 

Tecuichpo,  Princess,  I,  318 
Tehuantepec,   expedition  to,   II, 

Temple,  the  great,  I,  260;  note  on, 

Tenayucan,  II,  34 
Tenciz,  character  of  the  province 

of,  II,  278 
Tenochtitlan,  Mexico,  note  on,  I, 

Teotihuacan,     pyramids    of,      I, 

Tepeaca,   expedition  to,   I,   308; 

slaves  in,  309;  garrison  at,  II,  6 
Tepepolco,  quarries  of,  II,  66 
Teutepil,  II,  31 
Texcoco,  description  of  and  note 

on,  I,  247,  248;  canal  built  at, 


Tezcatlipoca,  I,  340,  341 

Tezmulocan,  II,  10 

Tiac,  arrival  of  Cortes  at,  II, 

Tianguiz,  II,  92 

Tithes,  first  levied  in  Mexico,  II, 

Tlalmanalco,  II,  42 

Tlapanecatl,  leads  assault,  II,  .88 

Tlascala,  republic  of,  I,  32; 
character  of  the  people,  32,  33; 
note  on,  197;  wall  of,  199; 
hostilities  in,  2oiff;  peace  con- 
cluded, 207;  description  of  city, 
209;  feud  with  Cholula,  220; 
loyalty  of  people,  303;  events 
in,  305;  native  of,  rescues 
Cortes,  II,  50 

Tlatelolco,  I,  330 

Torquemada,  Juan  de,  life  and 
writings,  I,  116 

Tozopan,  II,  41 

Trade,  relations  with  Hispaniola, 
II,  217 

Treasure,  list  of  first,  I,  170; 
collected  in  Mexico  253;  divi- 
sion of,  255;  fate  of  the,  II, 
210,  211 

Truce,  Mexican  flag  of,  II,  13 

Trujillo,  foundation  of,  II,  311 

Tuchintecla,  I,  245,  246 

Tupilcos,  province  of,  II,  23477 

Tututepec,  two  towns  so  named, 
II,  164 

Tzilacatzin,  his  exploits,  II,  89 

Valdenebro,  Diego,  II,  140 



Valleja,  Pedro  de,  at  San  Estevan, 
II,  174;  outgenerals  Grijalba, 
183,  184 

Vassals,  perfidy  of  the  Mexican, 

-  II,  84,  85 ;  doubt  the  Spaniards, 

Velasquez,  Diego,  conquers  Cuba, 
I,  6,  7;  character,  7,  8;  quarrel 
with  Cortes,  ioff;  sends  first 
expedition  to  mainland,  16, 
131/jF;  second  expedition,  18, 
137^;  appoints  Cortes  Captain, 
18;  instructions  to  Cortes,  19; 
suspicious  of,  2off;  note  on, 
1,25;  intrigues  with  Olid,  II, 

Vendabal,  Francisco  Martin,  cap- 
tured at  Tacuba,  II,  50,  55 

Vera  Cruz,  I,  157;  reinforcements 
arrive  at,  II,  27;  more  arrivals 
at,  40;  ammunition  arrives  at, 

Verdugo,  Francisco,  II,  43 

Villafafta,  Antonio  de,  his  plot 
and  fate,  II,  144,  145 

Villafuerte,  Rodriquez  de,  II,  43 


Women,  Spanish,  during  the  con- 
quest, II,  99 


Xatlocan,  attack  on,  II,  2>Z 
Xicotencatl,  I,  204,  303;  distrust 

of  Spaniards,  319;  his  desertion 

and  death,  II,  63 

Xiuhtepec,  II,  46 

Xochimilco,  I,  194;  note  on  name 
of,  II,  49;  fighting  at,  49/f 

Xoloc,  capture  of  and  note  on, 
II,  69 

Xuarez,  Catalina,  courted  by- 
Cortes,  I,  11;  marriage,  12 

Xuarez,  Juan  partner  of  Cortes  I, 

Xuchitepec,  I,  244 

Yasa,  river,  II,  287 

Yautepeque,  II,  46 

Yuca,  note  on,  II,  243 

Yucatan,  note  on,  I,  123;  discov- 
ery of,  127;  Spanish  prisoners 
in,  141 

Yuste,  Juan,  his  fate,  II,  30 

Zacatula,     foundation      of,     II, 

Zalapa,  the  river  II,  236 
Zapotecas,  expedition  against  the, 

II,  197;   report  on  expedition, 

Zozolla,  I,  317 

Zuazo,  Alonso  de,  sent  back  to 

Mexico,  II,  233;  imprisonment 

of,  321 ;  exile  of,  362 
Zumarraga,  Juan   de,   appointed 

president  of  audiencia,   I,   56; 

letter  to  Charles  V,  3  5  jff 
Zufliga,  Juan  de,  wife  of  Cortes  I, 




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